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July 13, 2020

Bath Iron Works files federal charges, claiming striking union made threats

Photo / William Hall Striking employees walk the picket line at Bath Iron Works on June 22.

The three-week strike against Bath Iron Works by its largest labor union has turned more contentious after one side warned of violence and the other made a federal complaint.

The shipyard on Friday filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board claiming the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers Local S6 violated labor law by threatening members who returned to work.

In a website communication to its membership, the local on Thursday had said, “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 website notice also said that once the strike is resolved, the union would “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 right to do so without being harassed or threatened by violence. Those who resign union membership before crossing a picket line cannot be fined or required to pay full union dues during or after the strike, according to BIW.

“We are extremely disappointed that union leaders would make false and threatening statements to the very employees they are supposed to represent,” BIW President Dirk Lesko said in a statement. “We take these issues very seriously and will continue to ensure our employees’ rights are protected.”

The machinists union, representing about 4,300 of BIW’s 6,800 employees, walked off the job June 22 after voting overwhelmingly to reject a contract offer from the yard’s owner, Virginia-based defense contractor General Dynamics Corp. (NYSE: GD).

The local’s five-year contract expired June 19. A proposed three-year agreement had been the subject of heated bargaining since May 26, with Local S6 objecting to BIW’s wishes to alter job seniority privileges and to use nonunion subcontractors.

While production workers are on the picket line, Lesko said last week that the yard would immediately begin temporary layoffs of some other employees, who have had less work to do as a result of the strike.

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