Members of Bath Iron Works’ largest union have ratified a new contract to end a two-month long strike with 87 percent of its members backing it in a vote that closed on Sunday.
Local S6 members went on the picket line June 22 protesting the company’s proposed use of subcontractors and work reassignments for those with seniority. The sides came to a tentative contract agreement earlier this month on those and other issues with the help of federal mediators.
“This strike was a testament to the culmination of Local S6 leadership, our negotiating committee and the incredible power of solidarity shown by our membership,” union President Chris Wiers said in a statement Sunday.
BIW issued a statement saying that General Dynamics, which owns the Bath shipyard, was pleased it could “get back to the important work of building ships on schedule for the U.S. Navy.”
“This contract reflects the commitment of all BIW employees to improve schedule performance and the economic package ensures that manufacturing careers at BIW continue to be among the very best in Maine,” the shipyard said.
Now that the contract has been approved, employees will return to their previous job, shift and location. Employees assigned to the third shift will return to work on Sunday.
Other employees can elect to return to work on Monday, Aug. 31 or Sept. 8, and must call in to declare their start date or be subject to discipline. This will allow them to give notice to another employer if they picked up other work during the strike. Insurance benefits will be activated when the employee returns.
On Tuesday, strikers were told to stop picketing and take down their signs as members prepared to vote. The vote on the new contract was held from Friday through noon Sunday and the 87 percent vote matched the share of members who rejected a previous offer and voted to strike.
The Local S6 strike was the largest one in America at the time and took place during the coronavirus pandemic and after the shipyard said it was six months behind on Navy contracts.
National figures also took notice. President Donald Trump tweeted earlier this month that he was “ glad to have helped” resolve the dispute, though White House’s role was apparently limited with the union and a top adviser crediting a federal mediator with bringing the sides together.
“In standing up for what is right, the Local S6 members showed the power of their collective voice and the power of unions to ensure workers get a fair return for their work,” said Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, a former vice president, in a statement.