NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Author's note: The video above is on file from Nov. 17, 2021.
The union that represents over 12,000 workers at Newport News Shipbuilding is holding a rally Thursday after members rejected a tentative labor deal last month.
The United Steelworkers Local 8888 and Huntington Ingalls Industries had reached a tentative 5-year agreement that "would enhance wages, improve pension, curb health care costs and bolster promotional opportunities in lower job categories."
The two groups negotiated the deal before the previous contract expired on Nov. 14, but union members later struck it down with 1,313 "no" votes and 684 "yes" votes.
Now, those members will gather for the "Essential Rally for a Fair Contract" on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The rally will take place at the "Dorothy" tugboat along Washington Avenue, adjacent to Newport News Shipbuilding.
According to USW Local 8888, people will participate in a "Scrooge Protest" and "Solidarity Program," where leaders will give an update on bargaining and solidarity messages from political, labor and community allies. Members were planning to display holiday-themed signs and lead chants during the rally.
The union also said it's beginning education and preparation for a possible work stoppage if the dispute can't be resolved in negotiations.
Newport News Shipbuilding has over 25,000 employees, making it the largest industrial employer in Virginia. It's the United States' sole maker of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and one of only two shipyards capable of designing and building nuclear-powered submarines.
After 13News Now reached out, Newport News Shipbuilding sent a full statement in response to the planned rally. Here's what they had to say:
“Newport News Shipbuilding is aware of the union leadership’s desire to conduct a rally, and recognizes employees right to express their views.
We pride ourselves with having a long, constructive relationship with our labor partners and look forward to working with them. After the vote in November, in good faith we expressed to the union steel worker representatives that we are available and willing to continue the dialogue on the proposed contract that we both agreed upon. We feel strongly that the contract provides the pay and benefits that the union employees desire and due to the November low-vote turnout we must increase the understanding of the contract being considered. Therefore, we recently sent letters tailored to all union employees based on their individual circumstances so they could have a clear understanding of the exact pay and specific benefits, to them and their family. These letters outlined the positive increases in their pay, bonus, health care, time off, and pension so they can make an informed decision if they decide to vote.
Work at the shipyard is continuing under a contract extension, and the company and the union are continuing to honor all current contract terms and conditions as we work to reach an agreement with the contract.”