Labor

Bath Iron Works files NLRA complaint over striking union’s threatening message

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Bath Iron Works (BIW) filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) last Friday against a striking labor union threatening members who choose to return to work. 

In a message titled “Attention to All Scabs,” written in response to a form BIW reportedly sent to members on how to resign from the union, Local S6 leaders warned members that those who elect to cross the picket line would be fined after the strike is over. 

“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,” Local S6 leadership wrote. 

They ended the message with a gruesome quote from a Jack London poem, suggesting violence against members who resign. 

“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,” the message said. 

According to the National Labor Relations Act, employees returning to work have the right to do so without being harassed or threatened. Moreover, workers who resign union membership before returning to work are not obligated to pay full union dues. 

 “We take these issues very seriously and will continue to ensure our employees’ rights are protected,” BIW president Dirk Lesko said in a statement. 

Tim Suitter, spokesperson for Local S6, told the Press Herald that BIW’s charge is an attempt to divide union members and delay negotiations.

“The men and women who work at BIW are good people and [the shipyard is] trying to pit people against one another so BIW can seem like they’re a third party,” Suitter said. “Instead of focusing on how they can get back to the negotiating table, they want to continue to keep people out of work. If that’s not union-busting, what is?” Suitter said. 

Local S6 has been on strike since June 21. They are protesting primarily against BIW’s alleged failure to protect seniority rights and its plan to continue hiring subcontractors in their proposed three year contract with workers. 

BIW contends the hiring of subcontractors is necessary to meet deadlines and make good on its contractual obligation to the Department of Defense. When workers went on strike, BIW was already six months behind on projects. 

On Tuesday union leadership wrote to members of Congress, asking them to urge BIW to make the changes requested in their proposal.

About Isabelle Christie

Isabelle Christie is a senior at Marist College pursuing a degree in history and minors in communication and writing. She is currently serving as Maine Policy Institute’s summer 2020 communications intern.

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