The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) held a rally today at the Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel and urged hundreds of supporters of the U.S. manned space program to send a message that could be heard all the way back in Washington, D.C.
"It's time to let Congress know that American astronauts deserve better than a heavily outsourced space program that relies on Russian, Japanese and even Chinese contractors to provide transportation to the International Space Station (ISS)," said IAM President Tom Buffenbarger. "If NASA and the Obama administration have their way, American astronauts will be reduced to hitchhiking to the ISS." Speaker after speaker called on President Obama to reconsider his plans to terminate the Constellation program and commercialize the shuttle program. More than 20,000 direct and indirect jobs in Texas, Florida and other states are associated with the two programs.
While the president's space budget allocates an extra $6 billion for NASA over the next six years, thousands of highly-skilled jobs would be eliminated as the agency turned to private contractors to develop launch rockets and crew capsules.
"Do we really want to risk our astronauts' safety on equipment and technology developed by for-profit companies with unproven track records in safety and reliability?" asked Buffenbarger. "The manned space program in the United States has been the pride of the nation and the envy of the world for more than 50 years. It has more than earned our continued support."
The IAM is among the largest industrial trade unions in North America, representing nearly 700,000 active and retired members in dozens of industries. For more information about the IAM, visit www.goiam.org.