August 22, 2019
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Union replaces overseer at Bath Iron Works

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Four months after international union leadership sent a district official to oversee operations at the local office of the largest union at Bath Iron Works, that supervisor has been replaced with someone less familiar to members of Local S6 of the Machinists Union.

John Carr, a spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said Friday that the international office sent Tony Blevins to oversee the chapter earlier in the week.

“Representative Tony Blevins brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, not just in the IAM, but also the defense and aerospace industry like the members at Local S6,” Carr said.

In March, 11 of 12 members of the executive board of Local S6 of the Shipbuilders Union wrote to Robert Martinez Jr., president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, requesting help.

The executive board “asked for assistance to make sure they were providing duties in the way they’re supposed to for provisions in the bylaws and constitution,” Carr said.

It was the third such letter in 18 months.

Bevins replaces former S6 president Jay Wadleigh, who is now at the District 4 office of the IAMAW in Lisbon, who was sent by Martinez in March.

Wadleigh was directed to review the executive board’s concerns and recommend how to handle them.

At the time, Carr declined to specify what prompted the Local S6 board to ask for help, but did say such supervisory help has occurred at other local sites throughout the United States.

Local S6 President Mike Keenan has remained in office throughout the supervisory period and continues to run day-to-day operations, Carr said.

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.

In 2008, Keenan, a controversial leader, and three other officers of the local chapter were escorted from the union hall amid claims of financial mismanagement and pornography viewing on union-owned computers.

Keenan denied the allegations, but the chapter was placed into receivership — making the national union responsible for the leadership and assets of the local office — as he and other officials were suspended.

The IAMAW eventually returned control of the chapter to Local S6. Keenan was barred from running for office for four years and former chief steward Michael Cyr was barred for two years.

An interim president, Dan Dowling, served as union president until 2013. Three years later, Keenan lost a bid for the seat to Wadleigh, who was elected and served until February 2016, when Wadleigh took a position with the union’s district Lodge 4 in Lisbon.

Keenan was narrowly elected as president in October 2016, shortly after a controversial four-year contract took effect. The contract had been negotiated under Wadleigh’s leadership and was approved with a 1,343-1,045 vote of the membership. The contract allowed for $2,500 annual bonuses to replace annual raises, among a number of other concessions the company argued were necessary to keep it competitive for future Navy contracts.

Less than a week after Wadleigh was sent to oversee operations in Bath, Keenan filed “trial board charges” with the union alleging misconduct by the local’s secretary-treasurer, Jason Perry, and chief steward, Raymond Gauthier.

The two denied any wrongdoing, saying Keenan was retaliating against executive board members who signed the letter to the international office.

On March 16, members of Local S6 passed a vote of no confidence against Keenan and withdrew the charges filed against Gauthier.

Keenan has declined to comment throughout most of the process, including on Friday. However, following the vote of no-confidence, 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.”

Carr said Wadleigh will work with the new supervisor to familiarize him with the situation and to assist him.

“Assignments, and reassignments, are often made due to the availability [and] workload of qualified representatives,” Carr said in an email. “Preference is to assign a representative that isn’t directly associated to the members of the respective local or district lodge.”

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