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BIW files charge against Local S6 for reportedly violating federal labor laws with scab threats

Union leadership said Thursday that anyone who chooses to cross the pickets will be fined after the strike is over; the NLRA prohibits threats to union members.
Credit: AP
Shipbuilders picket outside an entrance to Bath Iron Works, Monday, June 22, 2020, in Bath, Maine. Thousands of workers went on strike against one of the Navy’s largest shipbuilders Monday after rejecting a three-year contract. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

BATH, Maine — Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works (BIW) on Friday filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) against striking union Local S6 for reportedly violating the National Labor Relations Act by threatening union members who elect to return to work.

The Machinists' Local S6 union issued an alert warning message from leadership on Thursday, saying that anyone who chooses to cross the pickets will be fined after the strike is over. It also included harsh references to so-called scabs, suggesting they should be drowned or hung.

In the message, Local S6 leadership claim BIW has mailed propaganda to striking union members and “irresponsibly provided information on how to resign from the Union so you can cross the picket line and work as a scab.”

Chris Wiers, president of Local S6, told NEWS CENTER Maine on Friday that the message leadership sent out was in response to a form BIW reportedly sent to union members on how to resign, which Wiers called "despicable."

“Once we return to work, anyone who took the advice from management and resigned from the Union will still be required to pay full union dues," Union leadership says in the message. "The Union will fine every single member who crossed the picket line for the total amount of wages they individually earned from BIW until the strike is over."

Under the National Labor Relations Act, employees who choose to resume working have the legal right to do so without being harassed or threatened with violence. Those who resign their union membership prior to crossing the picket line cannot be fined or required to pay full union dues, either during or after the strike.

In response to the union’s message, the shipyard said Friday that employees have a right to continue working under the law, and that they “have the right to do so without being unlawfully harassed and threatened.” The number of striking workers who’ve crossed picket lines is believed to be roughly a dozen.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Union would make false and threatening statements to the very employees it represents,” BIW said in the statement. “BIW takes these issues very seriously and will continue to ensure that its employees’ rights are protected. Those employees who resign their membership in the Union prior to crossing the picket line may not be fined, contrary to what the Union indicates in its post.  Employees who have resigned their membership in the Union also may not be required to pay full union dues, either during or after the strike.”

Wiers, however, says, "the union has legal right to seek damages against all who cross the picket line and work as scabs."

"The union is not threatening anyone," Wiers continued. "We are providing factual information out to our members. Unfortunately, we have to respond where once again Bath Iron Works management has chosen to mislead its employees. This is one more tactic that defines the character of BIW‘s management and how the treat their employees."

In response to the NLRB charge, Wiers said it's another "sideline distraction by BIW when they should be focusing on negotiating a fair contract."

Wiers added, "Good luck, BIW."

RELATED: Just more than two weeks into strike by one union, Bath Iron Works announces layoffs

Local S6's complete message:

Brothers and Sisters,

BIW has mailed out propaganda, had supervisors try to sell this contract based on economics, avoided the real issues, and irresponsibly provided information on how to resign from the Union so you can cross the picket line and work as a scab. BIW has failed to mention that once you resign from the Union you will not be able to vote on anything, run for any Union position/committee, and are ineligible to receive any union benefits; such as A&S, Dental, Vision, etc. Once we return to work, anyone who took the advice from management and resigned from the Union will still be required to pay full union dues. The Union will fine every single member who crossed the picket line for the total amount of wages they individually earned from BIW until the strike is over. BIW has once again steered you wrong. Similarly, to how they misrepresented their last, best, and final in the media.

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.

 In Solidarity, Local Lodge S6 Leadership

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.