Former Vice President Joe Biden weighed in on the Bath Iron Works strike Wednesday, urging the company to resume contract talks with the shipyard’s largest union and make members of the local machinists union a “fair offer” that will allow them to take care of their families.

The likely Democratic presidential nominee, who won the support of the national union’s rank-and-file among Democratic candidates in March and the unanimous support of local union presidents across the country in a head-to-head face-off with President Trump, issued a statement through a regional spokesman Wednesday afternoon.

“Local S6 members work hard to ensure that our military have the tools they need to be successful,” Biden said. “It’s up to us to make sure that those same workers have what they need to accomplish that for their own families. A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about dignity.”

He concluded: “I urge the Bath Iron Works to come back to the table to make a fair offer to the hardworking men and women.”

A spokesman who handles regional media for the president’s re-election campaign could not be reached for comment.

The union, which represents 4,300 of the shipyard’s 6,700 employees, rejected a three-year contract proposal over the weekend. Of those voting, 87 percent voted to strike, with members of the third shift walking out of the Bath facility at the stroke of midnight when the last contract expired.


Both parties said Wednesday that they’re ready to restart negotiations, but each is waiting for the other to make the first move.

In its last offer, BIW sought the right to hire subcontractors “to overcome manning shortages, lack of equipment, or facilities,” but agreed it would not use subcontractors “to avoid hiring employees … or to overcome a manning shortage if there are involuntary layoffs in the relevant trade.”

Union leaders worry extensive use of subcontractors could erode members’ job security, and say the deal also would erode hard-won seniority and healthcare benefits. The company says it needs to contain costs and use subcontractors until it can train enough new workers to stay competitive on federal contracts.

A division of General Dynamics, BIW is one of Maine’s top employers, providing jobs for 6,700 people. It produces destroyers for the U.S. Navy, specifically the Arleigh Burke-class of guided missile warships, which cost about $1.8 billion each. BIW is about six months behind on its current contract. The last BIW strike occurred in 2000 and lasted 55 days.

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