NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Thousands of Newport News Shipbuilding workers are waiting for a new contract, but union representatives say that's not going to happen until at least after Thanksgiving.
Negotiations are on hold for the holiday.
“These workers are part of the community and what happens in that shipyard affects every person in the Hampton Roads area," said United Steelworkers Media Coordinator Dwight Kirk.
Hundreds of United Steelworkers Local 8888 members met Saturday to learn why their current work contracts were extended.
“We probably had at least 400 people showed up to the meeting," said Kirk.
Kirk said work contract negotiations are on pause until after the Thanksgiving holiday.
“I think the members are very clear they want to see something that recognizes their value," explained Kirk.
The union represents about 12,000 workers at Newport News Shipbuilding, which is Virginia's largest industrial employer and the world's only maker of Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers.
Last week, the union voted down a proposed 5-year deal with the shipyard's parent company, Huntington Ingalls Industries.
“The turnout yesterday sent a message to the company and to workers at the shipyard that the members of the Union are now prepared to fight for a better contract," said Kirk.
After the vote on Wednesday, a spokesperson with Huntington Ingalls Industries issued this statement:
"This morning, we were notified that United Steelworkers members at Newport News Shipbuilding division voted against a new labor contract. We pride ourselves with having a long, constructive relationship with our labor partners, and are disappointed that union members voted against a contract that would continue to provide fair and competitive wage and benefit packages to our shipbuilders."
Kirk says the members want more pay for essential workers in the contract.
Kirk explained they want to make sure the agreement is right because the contracts usually last for five years.
Newport News Shipbuilding has more than 25,000 employees.