Our great state is usually known for our famous blueberries, golden potatoes, fresh lobster and the logging industry. It’s sometimes a surprise when Maine residents and tourists find out that Maine is also home to world-class shipbuilders at Bath Iron Works. We are the working families who proudly make the equipment essential to our country’s national security. This industry creates other local jobs and boosts our state’s economy.

As men and women who build some of the world’s most advanced military ships, we feel it necessary to address what has unfortunately become a partisan issue in Augusta. In 2015, members of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6 agreed to a contract with Bath Iron Works that gave the company the flexibility and versatility it said it needed to fulfill orders from the U.S. Navy. We even gave up annual wage increases for the next 4½ years.

Now, months away from negotiations on a new contract, the company is looking to bring in out-of-state subcontractors to perform our core shipbuilding work. Despite our efforts and offers to find solutions that would benefit both sides, Bath Iron Works has said it will not budge from its subcontracting pledge.

In response, our union, IAM Local Lodge S6, reached out to our congressional delegation representing us in Washington and our state representatives in Augusta over our concerns with plans to bring in out-of-state workers. These are some of the same legislators who toured the BIW shipyard last September, when there was no mention of the need to bring in out-of-state workers to complete work or being behind schedule because of lack of hiring. In two letters last October, BIW informed us of its intent to subcontract portions of electrical, sandblasting and painting work, with other trades to come soon after. This announcement sent shock waves throughout the shop floor.

BIW has blamed a tight labor market and lack of skilled workers as to why it needs to bring in workers from outside the state. This is a manufactured crisis. Today BIW possesses over 1,300 job applications and over 100 people waiting to be called back for a job. We refuse to sit back after agreeing to over four years of no pay raises and relaxing strong contract language to allow flexibility for General Dynamics to remain competitive. We will not concede decades of negotiations that continue to make life better for thousands of Maine residents. Our members have always built ships on schedule and under budget. We should not be cast aside for out-of-state Johnny-come-latelies.

Investing News reported that General Dynamics, the parent company of BIW, “reported revenues of almost $19 billion in the six months ending June 30, 2019, with 2018 revenue reported to be over $36 billion, of which approximately 66 percent is from its aerospace and defense segments.” General Dynamics has received at least $203.4 million from Maine taxpayers from 1997 to 2017, according to Good Jobs First’s national subsidy tracker. Our state tax dollars should be used to support Maine’s working families and our local economy.

Maine has a great opportunity to increase its footprint in the U.S. defense manufacturing sector and workforce. At IAM Local S6, we are committed to finding a solution that benefits BIW and the state of Maine. BIW plays a vital role in our state and local communities. This is not the time to concede our most valuable asset – Maine workers. Maine and the American taxpayers deserve better.

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