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NASA's InSight mission, which will investigate the interior of Mars, launched an atlas on Saturday, May 5, 2018, at 7:05 am Eastern Time from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California V rocket.
Florida Today

Hundreds of union members denounced Sunday a three-year contract offer from United Launch Alliance airline strike that will include non-stop pickets from Florida to California.

About 600 members of the International Association of Machinists and the Aerospace Workers Union rejected the offer of the launch provider and will launch on Monday near three of the company's key centers: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida; Decatur, Alabama; and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The members of the union are largely responsible for the hands-on work at the three sites associated with the hardware, including the first rocket assembly in Decatur and the final assembly and launch at the two military facilities.

"The Men and Women of The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Suppliers is on strike tomorrow because workers have lost job security," said Kevin DiMeco, a local organizer of the union. "It's a sad day for our membership and for ULA."

The union has about 300 members in Decatur, 220-230 in Cape Canaveral and 70-80 in Vandenberg.

An important point of contention, the union said the treaties were amended, giving workers less general flexibility, especially when traveling. The teams often travel between Vandenberg and the Cape to support missions, such as the successful Atlas V-Start of the NASA spacecraft InSight, which now flies to Mars.

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"Much of this is how they get people from different locations to take off," said Jody Bennett, chief of staff and union spokesman for the aerospace industry. "It does not give them much time for the family, they can force you to pack, walk and go somewhere for 30 days."

"A month from home is a long time, especially when forced upon you," said Bennett, noting that travel beyond 30 days is voluntary.

When ULA came to the statement on Sunday, she said their offer is fair and competitive.

"We are disappointed that the IAM members rejected ULA's last, best, and definitive offer and voted in favor of the strike," said Tory Bruno, ULA President and CEO. "We believe that our proposed contract is very competitive with other companies. Importantly, ULA's latest offering to ULA's long-term viability contributes to an increasingly competitive startup business.

The company's "last, best and last offer" included: $ 6,000 bonus per employee if the contract was approved before May 7, wage increases of 1.5 percent, 1.75 percent, and 2 percent for three years, maintaining existing medical plans, a guarantee that ULA will not hire extra staff due to subcontracting, and increasing the cost of living from $ 850 to $ 1,200 per year, to name just a few

The ULA said that their Keeping our operations open at all locations and allowing the company to implement its strike contingency plans and focus on commitments will be our customers. "

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DiMeco and Bennett both emphasized that the economic aspects of the agreement or pay and benefits were not the primary concerns of the member he. They said the ULA could have provided more protection against the rising health costs, but the lack of flexibility was the key point.

"With the increase in insurance premiums in recent years, we can anticipate that it will take much of their income at the end of this contract just to pay for the insurance," Bennett said of the members.

The launch manifest of the ULA, meanwhile, does not appear to be in immediate danger: the company has been contracted by NASA to launch the high-profile Parker Solar Probe no earlier than July 31 on a Delta IV Heavy from Cape Canaveral. This mission will reach within 4 million miles of the Sun to help predict space weather events and their impact on Earth.

"The last thing we want to see is that everything is delayed," said DiMeco. "Hopefully ULA will come back to the table quickly so we can solve the problem and get on the road as we've been for years, and the last thing we want to do is put a black mark on the space industry."

ULA, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, builds and launches rockets from the Atlas V, Delta IV and Delta IV Heavy families. The older model Delta II will have its final start this year.

Next steps, according to the union, lie with ULA – Bennett said they are ready to meet with the company anytime, anywhere to discuss the contract. In the meantime, members will begin picketing local pickets at Oak Hill's South Gate at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Garden Street Titusville, and State Road 3 intersection with Oak Hill.

"A few minor changes and that could be a win-win situation for all," said DiMeco.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook @EmreKelly

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