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VAFB labor dispute delays Minuteman ICBM test

An ongoing labor dispute at Vandenberg Air Force Base is delaying the scheduled test launch of an unarmed Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, on Tuesday.

Over a dozen union employees with civilian launch control contractor RGNext have voted to go out on strike and are expected to be walking a picket line Tuesday morning at the base.

“The main issue is an unfair labor practice”, says Teamsters Local 986 representative Lynn Swenson, “we feel the company has not acted properly or legally with these employees, we have filed that with the National Labor Relations Board.”

“There are other economic issues that are on the employees minds concerning benefits and wages”, Swenson says, “not being offered the same benefit level as other union employees that RGNext represents through the Teamsters.”

Swenson says the union has been bargaining with RGNext for the past several months just as the contractor, a joint venture between Raytheon and General Dynamics, has been bringing in new staff for key launch positions.

“Part of their issue with this is there are currently substitute planners and controllers being placed in for this launch that don’t have the certification, education or background as these employees do”, Swenson says.

A spokesperson for RGNext declined to comment on the labor dispute and planned work stoppage.

VAFB Public Affairs did not immediately respond to questions about Tuesday’s scheduled ICBM test launch.

Swenson says union members going on strike have been told the launch has been delayed at least 24 hours.

“These employees are what I refer to as the tip of the spear”, Swenson says, “they are they employees that are charged with operational planning long before a launch goes off and they are charged with determining what range assets and facilities come into play, then during a launch they are in charge of each of those assets and facilities coming into play at the key time in order to safeguard the public and ensure that the data is delivered to the Air Force for their testing.”

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