March 25, 2019
Midcoast Latest News | Russia Investigation | Bangor Metro | Maine Bicentennial | Today's Paper

President of largest union at Bath Iron Works files charges against local board members

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

BATH, Maine — Less than a week after international union leadership sent a district official to Bath to oversee operations at Bath Iron Works’ largest union, the president of Local S6 on Thursday filed “trial board charges” with the union alleging misconduct by the local’s secretary-treasurer and chief steward.

But those officers deny wrongdoing and say Mike Keenan, the president of Local S6 of the machinists union, is retaliating against executive board members who have tried unsuccessfully for two years to work with him. They described Keenan as “defiant” and said he is angry because the two were among all members of the Local S6 board, except Keenan, to sign a Jan. 22 letter requesting that the national union intervene in how the local one is managed.

On Thursday, Keenan filed trial board charges against S6 secretary and treasurer Jason Perry and chief steward Raymond Gauthier, alleging conduct unbecoming an officer and a member, incompetence, negligence, insubordination in the performance of official duties and failure or refusal to perform duties assigned, among other misconduct.

Perry and Gauthier signed a Jan. 22 letter from the local’s board to the national union leadership requesting assistance from the national union. It was the third such letter sent in 18 months.

Perry, specifically, is charged with violations including failing to issue, collect and file tax forms, failing to protect the local lodge from fines and penalties, allowing payment of “lost time” reimbursements by members without proper review, and closing the union office early or opening it late.

In a statement Monday to the Bangor Daily News, Perry wrote, “These accusations are so far from the facts, and I refuse to stay silent while my name is being made public over what should have remained an internal issue. Mr. Keenan is leveling these charges against me solely as retribution for my efforts in helping to work through numerous issues that our entire executive board has been dealing with for over two years. These charges were also placed on me only

Keenan alleges Gauthier failed to refrain from conduct that interferes with the performance of the union, refused to comply with directives and to attend mandatory meetings, failed to maintain communications with Keenan, and failed to account for and review union time used by representatives for whom he is responsible.

In statements Monday, both Perry and Gauthier categorically denied the allegations and said after a unanimous request from all other members of the executive board was granted by the Grand Lodge to step in and help us by supervising our day-to-day operations. All of these allegations should have been addressed under this supervision, not under official charges. Our union is made up of more than one person, and we must all realize that we are in this fight together.”

In a statement, Gauthier wrote, “I feel it is unfortunate that the problems of the local lodge have gone public. Now that they have, I feel I must respond. I categorically deny any and all charges. This is a retaliatory response from Mr. Keenan. The [executive board] of the Local has been attempting to offer solutions to the many problems that exist with no success. They have worked tirelessly but Mr. Keenan has been defiant for nearly two years. Our focus should be on negotiating a fair contract for our hard-working members in 2020, not [on] spreading deceit in hopes of gaining popularity. We are union reps, not politicians!”

In a Monday email, Keenan said he had an audit of all finances, assets, grievances, labels and parking funds performed shortly after he took office in January 2017.

That audit led to the prosecution and eventual conviction of the former secretary and treasurer being for embezzling $281,000 from the union between 2012 and 2016.

“My job is to protect the shipbuilders and their local lodge,” Keenan said. “I do not lay judgment, I place evidence on the table and let the folks empowered to make a decision do their jobs. Since that time, I have continued to send letters to the International [office] requesting assistance to clear up a few remaining issues with the local lodge. While I certainly appreciate both representatives’ right to proclaim their innocence in this matter, I never expected them to claim guilt.”

He said the union will now follow an internal process that could result in a ruling by the international office.

“It is imperative that the internal process be exhausted,” he said. “These charges have been in the process for some time and are not something to be taken lightly.”

A shipfitter, Keenan has twice served as president of Local S6.

His first term — from 2001 to 2008 — ended when he and three other officers of the local chapter were escorted from the union hall amid claims of financial mismanagement and pornography being viewed on union-owned computers.

Keenan denied the allegations, but the chapter was placed into receivership 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 for two.

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

In October 2016, Keenan was re-elected as president of the 3,500-member union, shortly after a controversial four-year contract, negotiated under Wadleigh’s leadership and approved with a 1,343-1,045 vote of the membership, took effect. 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.

Keenan took office in January 2017. Nine months later, members of Keenan’s executive board wrote the first of three letters to international union leadership asking for help to assure rank-and-file shipbuilders that local leaders are running the chapter according to its rules.

The board wrote to international leadership again Nov. 27, 2018. A third letter, signed by nearly the entire board, was sent Jan. 22, 2019.

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

Early this month, international union president Robert Martinez Jr. dispatched Wadleigh, the former president of Local S6 who is now at the District 4 office of the IAMAW in Lisbon, to “oversee and supervise” operations at S6, Carr said.

At the time, Carr would not specify what prompted the Local S6 board to ask for help.

On Monday, Carr said in a statement, “It is not unusual for policy or personal disputes to interfere with the smooth operation of any organization. The role of the deputy is to help reach a resolution to any issues while ensuring the high level of services our members deserve are maintained. The deputy will continue to assist Local S6, not to operate or control it in compliance with its bylaws, the IAM Constitution.”

Keenan and other officers remain in their positions, but Wadleigh will review the executive board’s concerns and recommend how to handle them, according to Carr.

The turmoil seems to have boiled over eight months before a new slate of union officers is due to be elected and negotiations on a new contract not far off.

The trial board process — through which Keenan was removed from office in 2008 — allows any union member to file a complaint about any officer or union representative with the union president. If the president determines it is warranted, he will select a three-member committee to hear the case or send someone from the international office.

Follow BDN Bath-Brunswick on Facebook for the latest news from the Bath-Brunswick area and Lincoln and Sagadahoc counties.



Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like