Regardless of being Republicans or Democrats, we Mainers share many values. Icons like Joshua Chamberlain, Margaret Chase Smith, Ed Muskie, George Mitchell and Bill Cohen – Republicans and Democrats alike – have been revered despite political differences. Especially in times of crisis, we need to remember our shared values and work together and find common purpose.

Bath Iron Works – building seagoing vessels for more than 100 years – has also been a source of pride for all Mainers, regardless of their political persuasion.

Unfortunately, in this time of crisis, a partisan group of lawmakers has decided to break with that tradition. Led by Rep. Seth Berry, a group of lawmakers made this a partisan exercise, cast the Navy as irrelevant to the discussion, and chose to make a political statement over the fact that BIW remains in operation. Their actions have put one of Maine’s most iconic institutions in jeopardy by undermining the effort to support Navy shipbuilding while keeping employees safe. And they have put some of the hardest-working professionals’ – our shipbuilders’ – future in peril. In doing so, they also endanger one of the primary engines of Maine’s fragile economy.

It is important to be clear on the facts: BIW, like all military shipyards throughout the United States, has been directed by the U.S. Navy to remain open.

In that environment, BIW has worked quickly and thoughtfully to provide a safe workplace for its valued workforce.  BIW was among the first employers in Maine – large or small – to offer flexibility to their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. BIW has offered their employees the right to choose whether or not to continue working, letting them pursue what they believe is best for themselves and their families, by using a wide range of benefits including paid vacation, sick time and excused time off. For employees who choose to continue to work, BIW has more than doubled its workplace cleaning. They have provided thousands of face masks and communicated about when it is safe and appropriate to use masks in their manufacturing environment to stop the spread of the virus.

They have purchased over 100,000 lunches from local eateries and provided safe, socially distanced eating spots at the yard to prevent employees having to closely congregate at food trucks. They have consulted with public health experts and have been open to new ideas for maintaining a safe workplace. They have also been in close contact with the Maine Center for Disease Control throughout the pandemic. This partial list of actions taken shows that BIW is doing everything they can to protect their workers.

The workplace protections BIW has implemented have, thus far, worked. With a workforce of nearly 7,000, only two employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and they have fully recovered and returned to work, along with all the employees who were quarantined because they may have had contact with the affected employee.

For generations, Maine leaders have worked in a bipartisan fashion and have proudly advocated for BIW and the Mainers who work there. While some legislators here in Maine are fanning the fires of discontent, our counterparts in Wisconsin were working together to lobby President Trump to push the new naval frigate program to Marinette Shipyard. Now that the Navy has awarded the frigate contract to BIW’s competitor, it’s clear that instead of fighting BIW, we should have been working together to support the future of BIW.

Moving forward, we, along with Assistant Senate Republican Leader Jeff Timberlake of Turner and Assistant House Republican Leader Trey Stewart of Presque Isle, ask our fellow legislators to set aside partisanship and join us in advocating for BIW, alongside our dedicated congressional delegation, to secure additional work for the shipyard. Let’s work collectively to help secure BIW’s future and a foundational piece of Maine’s economy, and in doing so, help serve our country. Let’s stop trying to score cheap political points and instead promote what we know is true, “Bath Built is Best Built”!

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