Hundreds of workers shot down a proposed three-year contract and instead voted to hit the picket line instead.
Representatives of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and that of United Launch Alliance (ULA) could not come to an agreement on a new contact before the previous one expired at midnight on May 6.
Workers immediately began the strike at 12:01 a.m. on May 7. Workers told WAAY 31 this is the first strike they've had since 2005.
Negotiations between the two parties started back on April 16. The contract covers about 600 employees across three ULA sites.
About 300 workers are at the manufacturing plant in Decatur. According to Florida Today, between 220 and 230 union employees are at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and 70 to 80 are at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
By April 26, ULA presented their "Last, Best and Final Offer." But on Sunday, ULA updated its time line of the negotiation to say that IAM rejected the offer.
"When the [union] vote happened, everybody rejected the contract and we all voted to strike," Matt Griggs, a business representative for IAM said. "It sent a very clear message, I would think, to ULA that their 'Last, Best and Final' wasn't very good."
Within the proposed three-year contract were provisions like an annual pay increase as well as a travel bonus for travel longer than 30 days.
"The issue is not the money in the contract. The issue is the travel. These members are taking an opportunity now to use their voice to show they are very dissatisfied with this proposal that was passed," Matt Griggs, a business representative for IAM said.
Griggs told WAAY 31 that as it stands now, workers can be sent to either the California or Florida site for 30 days or more with only a 72-hour heads up to prepare.
In a statement, ULA President Tony Bruno said the contract was more than fair to the workers and said he was "disappointed that the IAM members rejected ULA's last, best and final offer and voted to strike."
"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," Bruno said.
On its website chronicling the negotiating process, ULA provides both a strike cost and wage progression calculator. For example, an employee making $20 per hour, would stand to lose $6,800 between lost wages and a lost ratification bonus if the strike lasted for five days.
Conversely, that same hypothetical employee would see an 11.06 percent estimated contract wage rate increase, according to ULA's estimation.
However, Griggs said those who are striking see those numbers as a mark of how serious they are about continuing negotiations since they are willing to sacrifice that much potential income.
"Obviously, they're on strike. They're not getting paid right now. This is about dignity and pride for their families," Griggs said.
As of early Monday morning, neither said has said when negotiations might restart.
For its part, ULA stated that they will continue work at all of their sites. The company added that it will "implement its strike contingency plans while focusing on meeting its commitments to [its] customers."
Griggs said workers are prepared to stay on the picket line as long as need be.
To see some of the frequently asked questions and answers about the "Last, Best and Final Offer," click here.
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