The strike at General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works shipyard is well under way, with well-staffed picket lines outside – but not blocking – its main gates. According to the union’s leaders, turnout exceeded 1,000 members, about a quarter of the membership and a larger number than expected.
The strike began after a failed contract negotiation process between IAM Local S6 – the union representing most of the yard’s workforce – and BIW management. Last weekend, 87 percent of voting members cast ballots in favor of the strike.
“Despite our repeated warnings to the management of Bath Iron Works, this employer has continued to take taxpayer dollars and outsource good Maine jobs to out-of-state contractors,” asserted Robert Martinez Jr., president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). “The company is engaged in flat-out union-busting, and is exploiting the current pandemic to attempt to outsource work from its dedicated employees, who are risking their health to build ships that protect our national security.”
I was at Bath Iron Works this morning to show solidarity with workers from BIW’s biggest union, S6, who voted 87% to strike for a fair contract. BIW is owned by General Dynamics, whose CEO made $17,828,591 in 2019. Think they can afford to take care of the workers, too? pic.twitter.com/NzVPxG29ot— Lisa Savage for US Senate???? (@LisaForMaine) June 22, 2020
The shipyard’s core contract, the U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke-class destroyer series, is already six months behind schedule. The Navy’s top acquisitions official, assistant secretary James Guerts, said in a conference call Monday that he is closely monitoring the strike.
“The Navy’s expectations are that the leaders of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers work very diligently and with a sense of urgency to come to an agreement so that we can get out ship construction,” Guerts said. “Obviously, we’re very concerned with the dispute right now.”
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) echoed Guerts’ sentiment. “The inability to reach an agreement not only affects the skilled men and women employed at the shipyard but also the many workers in the supply chain, the economy of our State, and the ability of BIW workers to deliver much-needed ships to our Navy,” Sen. Collins said in a statement.
In a letter to the union, Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) said that he is “100% in support” of the picket line. “As skilled shipbuilders, you are a vital asset to America and you deserve fair pay for a hard day’s work,” he said. “Subcontracting may seem like a good solution today, but you know the saying: ‘Good work ain’t cheap and cheap work ain’t good.'”
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