Union workers on strike at Stennis Space Center
Published 1:40 pm Friday, May 16, 2014
HANCOCK COUNTY — A change to the retirement program has prompted Lockheed Martin machinists at Stennis Space Center to protest by going on strike by picketing at the north and south gates.
Family and friends have joined the workers, who are members of the International Association of Machnist and Aerospace Workers, in their fight to protect their pension said Ken Powe, a chief steward.
“It’s not about money. It’s just about corporate control,” Powe said.
The group voted yesterday afternoon to strike, which began when their contract with Lockheed Martin ended at 12:01 a.m., Powe said.
He said Lockheed Martin is trying to change the workers’ retirement plan from a pension through the IAM to a 401K through Lockheed Martin.
“They’re wanting to put us in a 401K where they can make a quick buck off of us,” Powe said.
Powe said the union workers are concerned about the security of their retirement if Lockheed Martin were to leave Stennis Space Center or even become financially insecure. He said every five to seven years companies will change, but employees stay the same. Having a pension plan through the union instead of a company contracting through Stennis Space Center allows for consistency and stability for employees.
“It’s also a fully funded, defined benefit and is funded at 110 percent,” Powe said.
IAM Spokesperson Frank Larkin said the union workers at are in charge of maintaining test stands at the site.
“We are disappointed that the IAM members did not ratify the contract and voted to strike,” said a statement from Lockheed Martin’s Public Affairs office. “Lockheed Martin offered an outstanding proposal that is fair and equitable for employees. The offer provides competitive pay and comprehensive benefits while maintaining Lockheed Martin’s ability to deliver to our customers. This is our last, best and final offer.”
As of Friday at 10:30 a.m., union workers had not received a response from Lockheed Martin, Powe said.
The picketing group at the north gate said they have not had trouble with Stennis Space Center security during their strike and the security team and NASA have been very cooperative.
“It is NASA policy to remain neutral and encourage sound relations with industry and labor in order that essential government operations can continue without interruption,” said Stennis Space Center News Chief Rebecca Strecker.
As for how the strike will affect Stennis Space Center operations, Strecker said, “Lockheed Martin is contractually obligated to fulfill the requirements of their contract and ensure continuity of essential operations at SSC.”