Press Release

Machinists Launch on Boeing Rocket Safety

By SpaceRef Editor
November 18, 2005
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The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is charging the Boeing Co. with circumventing critical safety regulations in an attempt to meet launch deadlines for NASA’s plutonium powered New Horizons mission. The Machinists Union represents striking technicians at Boeing’s launch facility at Cape Canaveral, FL.

“There are personnel currently working on this project who do not meet Air Force requirements for hazardous operations such as cranes, tools and test equipment,” said IAM spokesman Bob Wood. “At particular risk is the Pluto- bound New Horizons mission, planned for a January launch, carrying 24 pounds of highly radioactive plutonium.”

IAM-represented technicians employed by Boeing at Cape Canaveral struck on Nov. 2 after Boeing proposed massive concessions in health care for current and future employees. The same proposals led to a costly 4-week strike at Boeing’s Commercial Aircraft facilities in Kansas, Oregon and Washington.

“Boeing’s practice of using unqualified and inexperienced replacement workers is a recipe for disaster,” warned Wood. “The Air Force’s Range Safety department at the Cape has already issued two Corrective Action Reports (CAR), both in the first week of the strike. The Air Force has threatened to shut down the project if one more CAR is issued.”

“A single error by a replacement worker could cost them their life,” said Wood. “The last thing we want to see is a similar error with radioactive material on board.”

Full certification and familiarization on flight hardware processing normally takes approximately one year. After the IAM presented their concerns to NASA, Boeing ordered employees to cease speaking with IAM representatives about safety issues. NASA has yet to give the IAM a promised answer to their concerns.

“Secrecy and safety don’t mix,” added Wood. “A cover-up isn’t what we need. For everyone’s safety, we need a full and complete investigation into Boeing’s actions. The stakes are just too high to do otherwise.”

The IAM is among the largest industrial trade unions in North America, representing nearly 720,000 active and retired workers in dozens of industries. For more information about the Machinists Union, visit their website at

SpaceRef staff editor.