IAM Local S6
Iam Ls6 On Strike

Bath Iron Works, IAM Local S6 Reach Agreement to End Strike

Aug. 11, 2020
The agreement ends a strike of more than 4,300 shipbuilders that has been going since June 22.

Late August 7, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6 negotiating committee reached a tentative agreement with General Dynamic’s Bath Iron Works. While still subject to ratification by union members, the tentative agreement will allow the union’s members return to work building ships following a lengthy strike over wage disagreements and changes to the pension and subcontractor rules. According to General Dynamics, roughly 4,300 union members participated in the strike at its Bath, Maine shipyard, which began June 22.

According to General Dynamics, the proposed agreement covers the use of subcontractors, work rules for accelerating Bath Iron Works’ schedule performance, 3% wage increases in each year and continuation of existing benefits. In a piece on the IAM’s website, the IAM S6 said the agreement keeps existing subcontracting language, healthcare premiums, and senior preferences.

Dirk Lesko, the President of Bath Iron Works, said leadership worked “hand-in-hand” with the union negotiating committee on the agreement. In a statement, he said he hoped “our most valued employees” would “return to work soon so we can get on with our important mission of building ships for the U.S. Navy.” Phebe Novakovic, CEO of General Dynamics, said she was “pleased to have reached an agreement” with the union and credited assistance from Peter Navarro, a trade advisor to the White House, and AFL-CIO department president Jimmy Hart for “bringing the parties together.”

IAM General Vice President Brian Bryant commended “the entire membership of Local S6” for their persistence. “Their strength and resilience allowed the negotiating committee to bring back this agreement.” IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. and IAM Local S6 President said they were “proud” of the striking workers.

A pair of dueling editorials published in June by the Portland Press Herald spelled out the terms of the disagreement. On June 17, the Herald published an editorial by Chris Wiers, president of the Local S6, in which he criticizes the company for attempting to “outsource jobs to out-of-state subcontractors, attack employee seniority provisions and dramatically increase employee healthcare costs.”

In response, Jon A. Fitzgerald, VP and general counsel of BIW, noted that the offer included wage increases to more than make up for the increased healthcare costs, and that changes to subcontract policies were to facilitate work unrelated to shipbuilding like shoveling snow. “It is our responsibility to ensure the competitiveness of one of the state’s largest employers,” he wrote, noting that BIW had recently lost a competition to build a new frigate. “This includes proposing changes to restrictions on our ability to muster and deploy every available resource.” On June 21, 87% of union members voted to approve a strike, which began the following day.

“We appreciate the hard work of all who contributed to this effort, including both the BIW and LS6 negotiating committees as well as the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, who will continue to work with both parties to implement the agreement when it is ratified,” said Lesko. 

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