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ULA’s workers went on strike today, their union rejecting the company’s final contract offer.
A major point of contention, the union said, were changes made to the contracts that offered employees less general flexibility, most notably when it comes to travel. Teams often travel between Vandenberg and the Cape to support missions, such as Saturday’s successful Atlas V launch of NASA’s InSight spacecraft now bound for Mars.
“A big part of it is how they have people travel from different locations to launch,” said Jody Bennett, chief of staff and aerospace negotiator for the union. “It doesn’t give them a lot of family time. They can force you to pack up, leave and go someplace for 30 days.”
“A month away from home is a long time, especially if it’s forced on you,” Bennett said, noting that travel beyond 30 days is voluntary.
This travel clause might relate to ULA’s effort to compete with SpaceX. They have trimmed their workforce, which means they might need to bring workers in from other locations when they do a launch, rather than hire more at each launch location and have them on standby all the time.
Either way, the timing of the strike is interesting, as it arrives just after a launch with the next ULA launch not scheduled until the end of July. It seems everyone, both company and union, have timed this to do as little harm to the company as possible.