Shipbuilder files complaint over union threats during strike

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Strikers picket outside the district lodge of Local 6 across from Bath Iron Works, Monday, June 22, 2020, in Bath, Maine. Production workers at one of the Navy's largest shipbuilders overwhelmingly voted to strike, rejecting the company's three-year contract offer Sunday and threatening to further delay delivery of ships. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works on Friday filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing its largest union of threatening workers who cross the picket line during an ongoing strike in Maine.

The company accused leaders of Machinists’ Local S6 of threatening so-called scabs with fines and loss of benefits — and hinting at violence.

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“We are extremely disappointed that union leaders would make false and threatening statements to the very employees they are supposed to represent,” said BIW President Dirk Lesko. “We take these issues very seriously and will continue to ensure our employees’ rights are protected.”

Union leaders in a statement warned that anyone who chooses to cross the picket line will be fined after the strike is over and had this to say about scabs: “No man has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a rope long enough to hang his body with.”

Jay Wadleigh, a district business representative for the Machinists, said the quote came from a Jack London poem, “Ode to a Scab.”

"Maybe they should study poetry a little more," Wadleigh said of the shipyard's managers.

Wadleigh insisted that production workers who cross the picket line are no longer eligible for union benefits, and may face fines, as well. The number of striking workers who've chosen to return to their jobs is small — roughly a dozen, he said.

About 4,300 Local S6 workers went on strike June 22 after overwhelmingly rejecting the company's proposal in dispute that’s primarily centered on subcontractors, work rules and seniority while wages and benefits are a secondary concern.

The company’s final offer that was rejected called for a three-year contract with pay raises of 3% in each year.

Bath Iron Works is one of the Navy’s largest shipbuilders and a major employer in Maine, with 6,800 workers. The General Dynamics subsidiary builds Navy destroyers, the workhorse of the fleet.

The strike, with workers losing company-funded insurance during a pandemic, threatens to put the shipyard further behind schedule in delivering the destroyers to the Navy at a time of growing competition from China and Russia.


Sharp reported from Portland, Maine.