ULA machinists demonstrate outside Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Credit: Craig Vander Galien for SpaceNews

WASHINGTON — Nearly 600 members of a union that has been on strike against United Launch Alliance for almost two weeks will vote on a new contract May 19 that would end the labor dispute.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said May 17 that its negotiators had reached an agreement with the company on a revised contract that addresses a number of issues regarding insurance, pension, travel and wages. Union members in Alabama, California and Florida will vote on the new contract May 19.

Among the changes are provisions that address directed travel, where ULA sends employees to other facilities, such as from the company’s main manufacturing plant in Decatur, Alabama, to launch sites in California and Florida.

Under the new contract, employees directed to travel would be exempted from additional directed travel for at least two weeks after their return. Decatur employees sent to perform “Aerospace Technician” work at the launch sites would get an additional hourly bonus of $4 per hour on top of a $4/hour travel bonus.

The four-year agreement would increase pay by 1.75 percent in the first year, increasing to 3 percent in the fourth year. They would also get a contract bonus of $3,000 within 90 days of contract ratification. ULA had previously offered smaller wage increases over a three-year period, but a $6,000 signing bonus.

“We’re pleased that our members at United Launch Alliance will have an opportunity to vote on a tentative agreement,” said Robert Martinez, Jr., president of Machinists Union International, in a statement.

In a May 10 letter, Tory Bruno, president and chief executive of ULA, acknowledged the union’s concerns about travel, job security and pensions. “Through your vote and your actions, I have heard your concerns – loud and clear,” he wrote. He reiterated that the company didn’t intend to eliminate union jobs through subcontracting or by having salaried employees perform work assigned to union personnel.

The revised agreement includes a section stating that while there are “shared responsibilities” in areas like launch operations that could be done by either union or non-union employees, the company will only use salaried personnel in the event of the “unforeseen absence” of union employees or during other critical times.

Union members went on strike May 6 after rejecting the previous contract offer, picketing outside ULA facilities and launch sites. If members approve the new contract in the May 19 vote, they will remove their pickets within four hours of the vote and return to work May 21.

The labor dispute has had no immediate effect on ULA operations, as it started immediately after the May 5 launch of NASA’s InSight Mars mission on an Atlas 5 and with no other launches scheduled prior to the Delta 4 Heavy launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe mission July 31. ULA said it implemented a contingency plan to keep that launch on schedule using “trained and experienced employees following established procedures and quality standards.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...