ULA workers strike over latest contract offer

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SolarpunkFan
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ULA workers strike over latest contract offer

Post by SolarpunkFan » 2018-05-08 08:06pm

The Verge
Nearly 600 union workers at the United Launch Alliance — the US government’s primary rocket launch provider — went on strike on May 6th, just a day after the company launched a lander to Mars for NASA.

The employees are part of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), and they’re responsible for assembling, testing, and helping to launch ULA’s rockets. They voted to go on strike after rejecting ULA’s final offer on a three-year contract that would have gone into effect on May 6th. Negotiations have been ongoing since April 16th.

The protesting workers are located at three of ULA’s main manufacturing and integration sites. That includes Decatur, Alabama, where the bulk of rocket manufacturing takes place, as well as Cape Canaveral, Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — ULA’s two launch locations. Picketing lines have already sprung up along the gates to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. While this strike is happening, ULA will need to find another way to get its rockets made and up into space.

An IAMAW representative says that the ULA employees have two main issues with the contract ULA proposed. One involves stipulations on travel between the two launch sites. ULA doesn’t launch out of Vandenberg very often, so the company maintains just a small workforce over there. So whenever there is a Vandenberg launch, employees from Florida are called to travel to Vandenberg to help with mission operations. Originally, employees only had to be in California for 30 days at a time and were then rotated out if needed.

However, IAMAW claims the new contract would allow ULA to call Florida employees back to Vandenberg after they had already returned home from a 30-day stint. “If you come back, they can send you back again,” Johnny Walker, a representative for IAMAW in Cape Canaveral, Florida, tells The Verge. “The family life is gone, and you can’t say no.”

Additionally, IAMAW says the contract gives ULA the option to sub-contract any job that it wants, meaning a full-time employee’s work could be given to an outside company at any time. The union sees that as ULA’s attempt to reduce the size of its workforce and pay lower wages. “Our guys have certification beyond belief,” says Walker. “We have a perfect record for launching rockets. We never have lost a rocket or had a failure. We were part of it being successful, and now they’re turning it around and treating us like dirt.”

ULA has not responded to these specific issues, but did release the following statement about the strike: “We’re disappointed that the IAM members rejected ULA’s last, best, and final offer and voted to strike,” said Tory Bruno, ULA’s CEO. “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.”

In the meantime, ULA said it would be “implementing its strike contingency plans,” though the company did not explain what those would be. The company is focused on meeting all of its obligations to its customers, according to the statement. ULA’s closest upcoming mission is the launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, a spacecraft that will travel closer to the Sun than any previous vehicle to study its outer atmosphere. The probe is slated to launch at the end of July on top of ULA’s Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It’s unclear if the strike will affect that mission, though there’s still plenty of time to find a resolution.
Interesting. This may just be naivete on my part, but that statement by the ULA CEO sounds kind of arrogant.
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Re: ULA workers strike over latest contract offer

Post by TimothyC » 2018-05-09 01:05am

SolarpunkFan wrote:
2018-05-08 08:06pm
Interesting. This may just be naivete on my part, but that statement by the ULA CEO sounds kind of arrogant.
ULA's competition in the US is right now, SpaceX. It is my understanding that SpaceX is completely non-Union (I don't know how it is with them now, but in years past the working hours flexibility at SpaceX consisted of 'work any eighty hour week you want'). Also, right now, ULA is desperately trying to get the programs in place to stay relevant in a market where there are at least three competitors (ULA's Vulcan, SpaceX's Falcon & BFR, and OrbitalATK's OmegA*) for the next generation of assured government space launch. in the face of that, the main advantage ULA has is the fact that they have never failed to deliver a payload on time into an orbit that the customer didn't find acceptable. They can afford to be more expensive than SpaceX, but they do have to manage costs lest the congresscritters come and cut them out of the assured launch business. They'll be in better shape once they get down to just Vulcan (right now they are supporting Atlas V, Detla II, Delta IVM/M+, & Delta IVH), but they have to get there first.

That said, I do totally understand their desire to not get sucked into perpetual deployment to Vandenberg when everything is at Decatur and the Cape.

*No, that's not a typo, the name is stylized with the A capitalized
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Re: ULA workers strike over latest contract offer

Post by SolarpunkFan » 2018-05-11 09:42am

TimothyC wrote:
2018-05-09 01:05am
*SNIP*
Of course, but making that kind of statement is probably just going to make the strikers angrier. Rather counterproductive for ULA I'd imagine. :?
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Re: ULA workers strike over latest contract offer

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2018-05-17 12:39am

TimothyC wrote:
2018-05-09 01:05am
ULA's competition in the US is right now, SpaceX. It is my understanding that SpaceX is completely non-Union (I don't know how it is with them now, but in years past the working hours flexibility at SpaceX consisted of 'work any eighty hour week you want').
SpaceX literally supplies beds for its engineers. Not to take a nap on, to sleep at the building overnight on. They also do a rather large fraction of their total work using engineering interns that make 8 dollars an hour. In fact they boost heavily about how many interns they hire and use.

Stuff like this is why Musk is such a public bullshit artist. If he can make people believe his bullshit they'll be more willing to work for him, and the more he can undercut the competition the less alternative jobs exist for anyone in this industry. Not helped by the US military having heavily cut back on related sectors the past 10 years. The whole large solid rocket industry basically evaporated.

Speaking of this, I can't help but wonder if at least some of the Model 3 delays are linked to the fact that Telsa's attempts to 'motivate' more work out of employees haven't worked so well with a car plant as they do for a rocket. With earlier Tesla models the company just built them by hand in the manner all xxx,xxx dollar cars are built, it's hard to go wrong at that kind of price point. But once manhours per vehicle began to matter, and the company decided it was somehow going to out automate big automakers with far more experience, suddenly just asking people to do better didn't work out so well me thinks.
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Re: ULA workers strike over latest contract offer

Post by TimothyC » 2018-05-17 07:26am

Just for the record, ULA's corporate parents Boeing and Lockheed are not blameless. For years they have been basically been taking the money the DoD has been paying ULA for assured launch out of ULA as profit for them (the parents). Furthermore, the concepts behind Vulcan (Hydrocarbon core with the diameter of Delta IV, full wide centaur, Integral Vehicle Fluids) all predate the formation of ULA, but the parents didn't allow the money that was coming into ULA to be used to improve the product.
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Re: ULA workers strike over latest contract offer

Post by TimothyC » 2018-05-21 02:14pm

Strike is over.

This is good for both, as hopefully it didn't delay any of the upcoming launches (Parker Solar Probe, CST-100 Orbital Flight Test, ect).
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Re: ULA workers strike over latest contract offer

Post by MKSheppard » 2018-05-21 06:11pm

Sea Skimmer wrote:
2018-05-17 12:39am
Stuff like this is why Musk is such a public bullshit artist. If he can make people believe his bullshit they'll be more willing to work for him, and the more he can undercut the competition the less alternative jobs exist for anyone in this industry. Not helped by the US military having heavily cut back on related sectors the past 10 years. The whole large solid rocket industry basically evaporated.

Speaking of this, I can't help but wonder if at least some of the Model 3 delays are linked to the fact that Telsa's attempts to 'motivate' more work out of employees haven't worked so well with a car plant as they do for a rocket. With earlier Tesla models the company just built them by hand in the manner all xxx,xxx dollar cars are built, it's hard to go wrong at that kind of price point. But once manhours per vehicle began to matter, and the company decided it was somehow going to out automate big automakers with far more experience, suddenly just asking people to do better didn't work out so well me thinks.
Musk isn't a bullshit artist. Falcon Heavy performance 64 tonnes to LEO fully expendable for like $100M or so; and the repeated landings of the Falcon 9 cores, plus the new Block 5 Falcon 9 with water cooled heat sheild etc.

That said, SpaceX is working in a dramatically different industry than Tesla.

Boeing/Lockheed/ULA have had schemes to enable the reuse of rocket engines via jettisoning the engines in a breakaway pod following first stage burnout and aerial capture of the parachuted pod via helicopter....going back to god, I don't know, 1990? They actually dunked a SSME in water IIRC and fired it as part of the old Bush I SEI initiatives.

Yet, Vulcan won't even offer reuse of the engines until 2024>.

Meanwhile, SpaceX went from "gee that's a nice idea" to sticking landings on drone barges in a few years.

Almost everyone in the big military-industrial corporate space complex is very slow. Space X doesn't have to be "perfect", they just have to move faster than the glacial pace of BoeingMartinGrumman.

But...in the car business, there's actual genuine competition. Musk had a pretty good start with the early Tesla models; but at this point I think he's dug himself into a hole with the Model 3 -- there's no way they can actually recover money from Model 3 production fast enough to pay off the debts coming due, and they can't keep printing more debt forever.
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Re: ULA workers strike over latest contract offer

Post by TithonusSyndrome » 2018-05-21 07:33pm

No, Musk is absolutely /the/ bullshit artist of our age
Tesla currently has 2.67 billion in cash.

About 1.1 billion of this is in loans that need to be returned early next year

Around 40% of their cash in hand is from refundable deposits, from people who thought they would get a $35k car

Tesla cannot make $35k M3s at a profit(this is widely accepted, and even Tesla hinted at it), they'll lose money even making $42k cars. They need to make $50k cars to earn a decent profit

When asked in the earning call last week about reservations and how many people chose to cancel/take up their car once offered, Musk stunningly called the question "boring" and "boneheaded" and went on take questions from a youtuber for 20 mins. This was considered unprecedented and bizarre and stock dove.

Tesla is losing about 800-900 million a quarter, so they will run out of money without a cash infusion. Literally everyone knows that Tesla will need to raise capital this year.

Musk though, has insisted that Tesla will not need to raise cash because they will be "profitable by Q3 or Q4". Reminder that they lost 780 million in Q1, and even small profits won't be enough to prevent running out of cash. In order to make profits they need to sell 10,000 cars a week. They were supposed to produce 5000 cars a week in 2017. They have just now been able to produce 2500/week.

Even bulls say that Musk is bluffing and he will eventually raise cash this year. Moody's downgrade of Tesla to essentially junk stocks makes it harder to raise cash at good interest rates. Moreover, there is speculation and some evidence that the reason Tesla haven't already done so, is that they are under SEC investigation which would prevent them from raising cash without disclosing a lot of details harmful to them.

Tesla has access to standard credit lines for about 500 million, but they recently had to pledge their Fremont factory to just maintain these credit lines.

A lot of Tesla's financial executives have left the company - a red flag to many including Jim Chanos, who famously shorted Enron due to similar indicators. The head of autopilot left and the head of engineering left 'for vacation' yesterday.

Tesla's autopilot is complete false advertising. Their original autopilot was developed by MobilEye. MobilEye hate tesla's exaggeration of the system's capabilities and withdrew their supply after a person died using autopilot. Tesla responded that mobileye was jealous of Tesla's superior "Enhanced Autopilot" which has hardware capable of full self driving. It is universally accepted that enhanced autopilot is worse than mobileye's system right now, and in general both are basically lane-keeping system with AEB. Waymo and GM/Cruise are far ahead with their FSD capabilities than Tesla(again, widely accepted)

Part of Tesla's debt comes from bailing out Solar City, a completely unprofitable company loaded with debt that was run by Musk's cousins.

Starting from 2019 and 2020, all the major automakers are bringing out electric models. This will further damage Tesla's competitiveness, since they have the wost QA and build quality due to their haphazard and panicked development process.
If you want specific sources on these claims, r/RealTesla is the place to look.
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