Machinists union president rallies striking shipyard workers

Cover Image
Photo credit A picketer stands in front of a union office near Bath Iron Works, Wednesday, July 22, 2020, in Bath, Maine. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6 is in its fifth week of the strike over a new contract. The shipbuilder and union remain at odds over issues of seniority and subcontractors. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
By The Associated Press

BATH, Maine (AP) — The international president of the Machinists union rallied striking workers at Bath Iron Works, urging them to stay strong Saturday and saying “there's no way in hell” the union will back down.

Robert Martinez Jr. delivered a message of unity to Machinists Local S6 during a strike that passed the one-month mark this week. He accused the shipyard, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, of "corporate greed."

“This is the largest strike in the United States of America right now,” he told the crowd of hundreds outside the union hall, across the street from the shipyard. “The eyes of the nation are upon us.”

The 4,300 production workers went on strike on June 22 after overwhelmingly rejecting the company's final contract proposal.

The strike is centered around subcontractors, work rules and seniority, with wages and benefits being less of a concern. The company’s offer contained 3% pay raises in each of the three years covered by the proposal.

Both sides have been meeting separately with a federal mediator but there have been no face-to-face negotiations since the strike began.

A company spokesman had no immediate comment on Saturday.

Bath Iron Works is one of the Navy’s largest shipbuilders and a major employer in Maine, with 6,800 workers.

The shipyard builds guided-missile destroyers, the workhorse of the fleet, and the strike threatens to put production further behind at a time of growing competition with Russia and China.

The company was already about six months behind schedule when the strike began. The company needs to be able to hire subcontractors to get caught up, the shipyard's president contends.