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Shipyard workers are officially on strike

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    Bath, Maine (WMTW) — Thousands of union workers at Bath Iron Works are officially on strike. Picket lines formed outside the shipyard early Monday after the strike began at midnight.

The contract for Machinists Local S6 expired at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. Union membership voted on the last contract offer from General Dynamics over the weekend. The union, which represents roughly 65% of BIW workers, says the contract was rejected and that 87% of its members voted to authorize the strike.

Dozens of people were already picketing and holding signs in multiple spots around the shipyard early Monday morning. That number had grown to well over 100 by 6:30 a.m.

Police and shipyard security both arrived on scene early Monday to help maintain order and traffic flow.

“We are proud to build the best ships in the world and we want to keep it that way,” said Local S6 President Chris Wiers. “We are fighting for good jobs for the Maine economy. We want jobs at the shipyard to be high quality jobs that members can earn a decent living in over a long career. We are adamantly opposed to BIW’s demands to rollback worker protections and job quality standards, to massively increase subcontracting and to gut the language in our contract that makes these decent, safe jobs. We will stand together until we get the respect and the fair contract that we deserve.”

“I’ll go without the money for a couple weeks or months or however long it takes,” said Stephen Riddle, who was on the picket lines on Monday. “For the long run, it’s really gonna hurt the people coming in here, the new hires.”

A spokesman for BIW said there have not been discussions to get back to the negotiating table.

“At this time, the company is focused on activating its business continuity plan,” said spokesman David Hench. “In the near term, this includes continued shipyard production with salaried personnel and others reporting to work. The company and the union have not discussed returning to the bargaining table, and there currently is no time frame for doing so.”

The union did post a list of rules for workers to follow while picketing including that they only picket in areas assigned by leadership and that they only hold signs provided by the union. They were also told to not block any entrances or exits to the shipyard and to not interfere with anyone entering or leaving.

A WMTW crew in Bath reporting on the strike observed that many picketers were not wearing masks or maintaining social distancing. Masks were a big issue for the union when the coronavirus outbreak began with the union calling on the shipyard to provide more.

The last strike at BIW was in 2000 and lasted for 55 days.

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