Newport News Shipbuilding’s biggest union will keep working after rejecting a contract offer — but if further negotiations don’t result in an agreement, United Steelworkers Local 8888 is talking about what a strike would involve.
Union leaders outlined strike preparations to members Saturday, including advice on dealing with financial challenges of a walkout, available community resources and the process to be followed and decisions needed for any action, union spokesman Dwight Kirk said.
“The last strike was in ’99 — half the membership wasn’t there then,” he said.
The union and shipyard agreed to a temporary extension of the contract that expired a week ago, and a key to the Saturday meeting was to make sure members understood its terms — including pay, work conditions and rights in any disputes — remain in effect, Kirk said.
The meeting also was a chance for union members to clarify key issues they want addressed in any future contract.
Local 8888 members last week rejected a tentative contract agreement by a 1312-684 vote. The rejected deal had a 60-month term, with annual pay increases, a $2,500 bonus and improvements to pension plans.
The union represents more than 10,000 of the shipyard’s 25,000 employees.
The local was recognized in 1979, after a strike that included the violent confrontation between shipbuilders and club-swinging police now remembered by older union members as Bloody Monday.
Since then, however, the union and shipyard negotiated a series of contracts.
There’s been only one other strike, in 1999.
That lasted 17 weeks. It ended when union members accepted a 58-month contract that guaranteed at least two promotions for most workers, raise pay 23 percent and pensions 78 percent.