Striking workers at Bath Iron Works got some encouragement from presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden when he urged management to resume negotiations.
“Local S6 members work hard to ensure that our military have the tools to be successful. It is up to us to make sure that those same workers have what they need to accomplish that for their own families,” Biden said in a statement released by his campaign.
“A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about dignity. I urge the Bath Iron Works to come back to the table and make a fair offer to the hardworking men and women of IAM Local S6,” he added.
Members of Bath Iron Works’ biggest union, the 4,000-member International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6, went on strike on Monday after voting overwhelmingly to reject the company’s final contract offer, citing disagreements about senior preferences, subcontracting and health care premiums, among other issues.
The strike comes while BIW, one of Maine’s largest private employers, is already six months behind on producing a set of destroyers. It is the first strike at the shipyard in 20 years.
Eighty-seven percent of the union’s voting members voted in favor of a strike on Sunday. The vote followed a decision by the union’s negotiating team to reject a three-year contract with BIW last weekend. The union said they rejected sections of the contract concerning health benefits and overtime and the hiring of subcontractors, among other issues.
Leading state Republican and Democrats expressed hope that both sides would soon resume talks, citing the strike’s likely impact upon the state economy and the possibility that the factory could lose out on future construction contracts if the strike lingers.
Local 56 members also cited changes to shift structures and increases in employee contributions and copays for health care among the reasons the union opposed the proposed contract.