July 23, 2019
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Biggest union at Bath Iron Works votes no confidence in its president

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Bath Iron Works

Members of the largest union at Bath Iron Works on Saturday passed a vote of no confidence in their president and withdrew charges alleging misconduct against the local chief steward.

But Mike Keenan, president of Local S6 of the machinists union, who on Thursday filed charges against chief steward Raymond Gauthier and secretary and treasurer Jason Perry, said Monday that he would appeal the dismissal of the charges. He said the charges were dropped due to “a technicality,” and called the no-confidence vote “diversion tactics.”

Gauthier said Monday that although most meetings draw fewer than 50 people, Saturday’s meeting drew close to 150 members. Those present passed by an “overwhelming” majority vote a statement that they had no confidence in Keenan’s leadership. Members also voted unanimously to withdraw the charges against Gauthier, he said.

He said the high turnout was due largely to members wanting to hear directly from the union officers themselves, but that late Friday night, Keenan informed the union’s recording secretary by text that he could not attend the meeting due to a “medical emergency.”

The charges against Perry must be handled by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, not the local organization, Gauthier said.

“Jason has my full support,” he said. “These charges were bogus and retaliatory. I fully expect the end result to be the same for him as it was for me.”

Perry has categorically denied the allegations.

Keenan, a shipfitter who was president of Local S6 from 2001 to 2008, was re-elected as president in 2016 of the 3,500-member union, and took office in January 2017.

He filed the charges alleging misconduct after Gauthier and Perry were among 11 of the executive board’s 12 members — except Keenan — to sign a Jan. 22 letter to national union leadership requesting assistance. It was the third time in 18 months the request had been made.

Help arrived early this month when the national organization sent former Local S6 president Jay Wadleigh to Bath from the district office in Lisbon to to “oversee and supervise” the operation of Local S6.

John Carr, a union spokesman based in New York, said last week Wadleigh will review the executive board’s concerns and recommend how to handle them.

Wadleigh had no comment on Monday. Carr did not respond to requests for comment.

Keenan said Monday that he was not present at Saturday’s meeting due to personal business, but said the actions by the board result from “unpopular” decisions Keenan made to rein in various forms of misconduct.

“This is a tough gig when you really want to protect the shipbuilders,” he said. “If people are doing anything they’re not supposed to do, I was elected to stop it.”

Tensions between other union board members and Keenan have escalated in recent weeks. On March 1, Keenan called Bath police and requested that “threatening statements made to him by a fellow union officer” be documented.

“It was an internal argument between union members that escalated into threats in emails,” Bath police Lt. Robert Savary said Monday. Police are not investigating the matter further at this point, he said.

“Sadly, cliques, bullying and representatives that think that they’re entitled are just not things I tolerate,” Keenan said in a written statement. “I was placed back into this position to clean up the local lodge and prepare for upcoming negotiations and that is exactly what I will continue to do. It has not been a popular initiative and has faced quite the resistance. This house must be in order if we are to succeed with taking on the company for negotiations in 2020.”

BDN staff writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.

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