Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 3:11 am | Fair 53º


Local News

United Launch Alliance Workers Vote For Strike at Vandenberg, Other Sites

A group of United Launch Alliance employees who belong to the Machinists Union voted to reject a contract offer and strike at three locations, including Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The employees who belong to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voted Sunday to authorize the strike at Vandenberg, the East Coast launch site at Cape Canaveral, Florida, and rocket manufacturing plant in Decatur, Alabama.

The union represents nearly 600 employees at the three sites, with the smallest number, approximately 80, at Vandenberg.

While the other sites went on strike Monday, members of Local 2786 at Vandenberg voted to strike effective 12:01 a.m. May 28.

But in what Grand Lodge representative James Watson called “a show of solidarity,’ the Vandenberg employees Monday honored the strike lines for Locals 610 and 44 with picketing at Vandenberg’s Main Gate and South Gate around the clock until further notice, union officials told members.

“Our members have delivered the reliability and experience that has helped United Launch Alliance create a world-class U.S. space program,” said Machinists Union International President Robert Martinez Jr.

“The Machinists Union members at ULA connect the world with our beautiful universe. This strike is centered around many issues, but above all has amplified the message that our members want to be valued and respected in the workplace.”

Contract negotiations began in mid-April with talks held in Buellton. 

The union negotiating committee did not recommend members approve the deal, contending a number of flaws existed.

Areas of contention include the company desire to subcontract any work being performed for up to 6 months at a time, allow salary workers to perform bargaining unit work, and have Decatur employees conduct launch site work at launch sites at Decatur’s lower pay rates.

One key concern enters on whether the firm can send employees from one launch site to another for 30 days at a time, with a two-day stint home before requiring them to return for another 30 days.

In response to the strike vote, ULA officials said they believe its offer is fair, competitive and in the best interest of both ULA and its employees. 

“We’re disappointed that the IAM members rejected ULA’s last, best and final offer and voted to strike,” said Tory Bruno, ULA president and chief executive officer. “We believe our proposed contract is very competitive with other companies. Importantly, ULA’s final offer contributes to ULA’s long term viability in an increasingly competitive launch business environment.”   

The firm’s final offer included a $6,000 ratification bonus if approved by May 7, but union representatives called it a bribe.

The proposal also calls for annual increases ranging 1.5 percent to 2 percent for the three-year span of the contract.

During the strike, ULA’s operations will remain open at all sites, the firm said in a written statement. 

Details of ULA's final offer can be found by clicking here while the Machinists' critique of the proposal can be seen here.

The strike vote came one day after the firm’s Atlas V rocket launched the nation's newest Mars mission to space from Vandenberg.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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