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Lockheed machinists on strike at Mississippi space center

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Lockheed Martin Corp on Friday said it was disappointed that just over 100 union-represented workers at a Mississippi space center had decided to go on strike after rejecting the company's contract offer. The company said it hoped to resolve the issue soon.

Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) began picketing outside NASA's Stennis Space Center on Friday after rejecting Lockheed's offer, which seeks to replace worker pensions with 401K retirement accounts.

The center is home to NASA's Rocket Propulsion Test Program, which manages the agency's propulsion test facilities.

"We are disappointed that the IAM members did not ratify the contract and voted to strike," said Lockheed spokeswoman Tabatha Thompson, adding that the company believed the offer was "fair and equitable" and offered workers "competitive pay and comprehensive benefits."

Thompson said it was the company's "last, best and final offer."

J.C. Felder, president of the Stennis IAM chapter, told the local Fox News station the union was trying to preserve the pensions that workers have now.

"We are not asking for a lot, nothing additional, really we just want to keep what we have," Felder told the TV station.

Over the past years, Lockheed has consistently sought to move away from defined benefit pensions in its contracts with union workers to defined contribution plans.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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