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Policy: Labor

Machinists union votes to settle Stennis strike

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News,Business,Labor unions,Labor,Mississippi

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. (AP) — Machinists union members at Mississippi's Stennis Space Center have voted to accept a contract proposal from Lockheed Martin Corp., settling a five-day strike.

Union spokesman Frank Larkin said members of Machinists Lodge 2249 voted 41-7 Tuesday to accept a contract with Lockheed Martin. The union represents about 115 workers who support NASA rocket testing at Stennis, which is near Bay St. Louis.

Employees will return to work Wednesday.

Union members went on strike Friday demanding that Lockheed Martin continue to provide a traditional pension plan for employees. But they voted to accept a contract that replaces the pension with a 401(k) retirement plan where Lockheed will give set amounts of money each year, but won't guarantee a pension benefit upon retirement.

Lodge president J.C. Felder said the deal includes wage and benefit improvements. He said workers wanted to end the strike quickly and negotiate over retirement at the end of the new three-year contract.

"We've had a pension plan at Stennis since 1977 and it's important not only to retirees, but for the overall economy of this community," Felder said in a statement. "Despite the outcome of today's vote, we'll continue the fight for good jobs at Stennis with secure retirement provisions."

Steve Field, a spokesman for Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Maryland, said union members approved the contract that they rejected Thursday, just before the strike began.

"We're pleased that the union members voted to accept the company's last, best and final offer, and will return to work," Field said in a statement. "The ratification of this new, three-year contract is excellent news for our company, the represented employees, their communities and the customer."

Lockheed Martin has about 430 employees at Stennis. Larkin and NASA spokeswoman Rebecca Strecker said no rocket tests were delayed by the strike.

"The strike has not affected overall operations at Stennis," Stecker said.

More than 5,000 people work for all employers housed at Stennis.

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