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Striking BIW union asks Congress to intervene in contract negotiations

In letters Tuesday, the national Machinists Union asked members of Congress to "urge" General Dynamics Bath Iron Work to end "misguided" contract offer.
Credit: AP
Union members picket outside 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)

BATH, Maine — Three weeks into a strike by the largest union at Bath Iron Works, the union's national office on Tuesday wrote to members of Congress asking for their help with stalled contract negotiations.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers asked members of Congress to urge BIW and its parent company, General Dynamics, to remove proposed changes in the company's "last, best and final" contract offer including an increase BIW's ability to use subcontractors.

The 4,300-member union voted overwhelmingly on June 22 to reject the company's offer and also voted to strike.

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In the letter, IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. wrote, "We ask that you start by sending a strong reminder to the company of its commitment to these workers, U.S. taxpayers, and our men and women in uniform who rely on world-class ships built by world-class workers."

“The Machinists Union is ready and willing to work with all partners in our effort to save these vitally important jobs and ensure that the necessary skilled workforce is available to continue to build the world’s greatest ships for the U.S. Navy,” Martinez wrote. “We ask that you start by sending a strong reminder to the company of its commitment to these workers, U.S. taxpayers, and our men and women in uniform who rely on world-class ships built by world-class shipbuilders.”

Martinez called the BIW contract offer "a slap in the face" and said the proposal to use out-of-state contractors would jeopardize worker's safety, health and livelihood.

The union has requested the assistance of a federal mediator and has asked President Donald Trump for support.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, has urged BIW "to make a fair offer."

In a release Tuesday, the union said BIW's argument that it can't hire enough workers is insincere, and that instead the company simply "refuses to offer sufficient entry-level wages."

On Thursday, BIW filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, charging striking Local S6 members with violating the National Labor Relations Act by allegedly threatening union members who cross the picket line and return to work.

Local S6 leadership posted a warning that anyone who chooses to cross the pickets will be fined after the strike is over. The message also suggested "scabs" should be drowned or hanged.

BIW spokesman David Hench did not immediately return a request for comment on Tuesday.

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