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Union At Bath Iron Works Votes to Strike

Willis Ryder Arnold
Maine Public
Members of Local S6, the largest union at Bath Iron Works, picket the company Monday, while Sagadahoc County sheriff's officers keep watch.

Workers with Bath Iron Works (BIW) largest union walked off the job early Monday morning, just one minute after its current contract with the company expired at midnight on Sunday.

Members of the Machinists' Union Local S6 completed voting just after noon Sunday, rejecting what was the "last, best, and final" offer made by the company last week.

Additionally, a strike vote was taken and authorized with 84 percent in favor, well over the two-thirds majority required.

Union official George Edward says the strikers are acting on behalf of the latest generation of union workers.

"You're fighting for your future. You're fighting to keep a job here, right? And you're fighting to protect the next person who comes in, right? It's all of our responsibility, just like 20 years ago, the senior mechanics, men and women, stuck up for us and went to bat for us."

Credit Willis Ryder Arnold / Maine Public
Maine Public
A passenger in a truck show support for striking BIW union workers Monday.

Issues that went unresolved include the use of increased subcontract labor, which the unions says would undercut union jobs, plus changes that workers say would threaten seniority practices. Additionally, on the union's Facebook page, numerous concerns were posted regarding expensive healthcare costs.

"At some point you have to say enough is enough, and put your foot down," says Lead Union Negotiator Jay Wadleigh. "And I’m super proud of this membership for standing us at such a high percentage and saying enough enough, have to fix your own problems internally, stop taking it out of our contract, stop taking it out of my job.”

The company, meanwhile, says its offer is fair and that it needs to use subcontract labor to catch up on projects. The company is also offering 3% raises for each of the three years of the contract, and says it has plans to hire more union positions.

Union representatives said given the tone of negotiations, they expected both parties to be in it “for the long haul.” 

Workers on the third shift at BIW were directed to depart their posts at one minute after midnight.

It is the first strike for workers at the shipyard in 20 years. In 2000, workers remained off the job for 55 days.

Meanwhile, BIW, which is a subsidiary of global aerospace and defense company General Dynamics, sent the following statement: "We obviously are disappointed by this result, but are prepared should a strike occur. BIW will be making additional information available to its employees in the near-term so they can plan accordingly."

Updated 2:54 p.m. June 22, 2020.  Irwin Gratz contributed to this report.