NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WVEC) -- Eighteen years after the last strike, could another work stoppage be looming at Hampton Roads' largest private employer?

Newport News Shipbuilding faces a July 9 deadline.

Today, members of the United Steelworkers Union Local 8888 held a picnic-rally, to discuss where negotiations stand.

At issue: pay, pensions and health care.

All in attendance were hopeful that a new contract can be reached, and there'll be no strike, as there was in 1999, and, 1979.

"Well, I think we're on the right track,." said Union President Arnold Outlaw. "I think we can get this thing done. I just hope the company is willing to wok with us."

This labor uncertainty comes at a time when the shipyard is about to celebrate the commissioning of the Gerald R. Ford.

There's the news this week of senators approving $10 billion in new funding for aircraft carrier and submarine construction.

Crane operator Raymond Lewis has worked here for 39 years.

"The thing of it is, we're the ones that come in every day," he said."We sacrifice time from our families. We work every day building their ships. so we deserve a fair contract. It is very important that we get this contract right, because a lot of our work force is aging. They deserve a good pension. They deserve a wage increase, and they deserve to have good working conditions.

We reached out to the shipyard spokeswoman for a comment. So far we haven't heard back.