Sen. Susan Collins spoke with International IAM President Robert Martinez Jr. in July when BIW’s largest union went on strike for nine weeks. Collins encouraged both BIW and the union to communicate so the strike can be resolved quickly, but the council representing Local S6 argues Collins didn’t help end the strike. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

BATH — Maine State Council of Machinists leaders, which represents Bath Iron Works’ largest unions, is calling on Sen. Susan Collins to remove a political advertisement they say falsely claims Collins helped resolve a nine-week strike over the summer.

The council represents BIW’s Local S6, which went on strike for nine weeks, as well as Local S7.

The ad, released this week, features six Local S6 union members saying that re-electing Collins will help the shipyard and its workers. However, the union council rejects a statement in the ad from Del Chadbourne, a BIW employee of 33 years, that “Susan Collins came down to the strike line and talked to us and she got us back to work.”

Chadborne told The Times Record he believes Collins helped end the strike because “the week after she visited the picket line, things started happening.”

“She said she was going to Washington and talk to someone,” Chadborne said, but added he doesn’t know who she may have spoken to or specifically how she helped end the strike.

The BIW workers in the ad initiated contact with the Collins campaign, according to Annie Clark, communications director for Collins.

Collins is being challenged by Maine House Speaker and Democrat Sara Gideon, who holds a single-digit lead over Collins in recent polling.

While Collins did visit the picket line in late July, George Edwards, Machinists District 4 assistant directing business representative and member of the negotiating committee, wrote: “Senator Collins did nothing to help Local S6 end the strike with Bath Iron Works.”

“She was asked repeatedly by Local S6 and the international president of our Machinists union to get involved and show her support for the workers on strike, but she declined to help,” Edwards wrote Tuesday.

“Senator Collins flatly refused requests to help the workers of Local S6 during the strike, so it’s frankly unbelievable to see her try to take credit for ending the strike and getting people back to work,” added Matt Schlobohm, executive director of the union council. “Senator Collins’ new ad is transparently false and if she respects hardworking Mainers, she should take it down immediately.”

Clark said Collins met with local union leaders prior to the strike and “urged all involved to do everything possible to avoid a strike.”

Local S6, which represents 4,300 of BIW’s 6,800 employees, went on strike June 22, after rejecting a 3-year contract proposal over disagreements about the company’s plans to continue hiring subcontractors and proposed changes to worker seniority privileges.

During the strike, Collins met with union members and BIW management and “urged both sides to seek compromise and to use the services of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to help resolve differences and find a solution,” said Clark.

The strike was resolved after nine weeks when union members voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new contract, created with the help of a federal mediator who was called in to restart negotiations between the company and the union.

Local S6 Spokesman Tim Suitter said Wednesday the call for help from a federal mediator came from the union.

“We had asked for help getting a mediator from all our elected officials, the international union president and wrote a letter to President Trump,” Suitter on Wednesday. “There was a lot of pressure from multiple people, but ultimately the request for a mediator started from us.”

Suitter said Collins’ ad was not organized by the union and added Local S6 will not endorse any political candidate “because there are union members on both sides.”

In August, the Maine State Union Council endorsed Gideon, citing her heavy support for Local S6 during the strike.

“We’ve taken particular notice of Sara’s support for striking members of Local S6, actions that speak volumes about her dedication to working men and women, and we stand behind Sara in her campaign and look forward to working with her in Washington,” Maine State Council of Machinists President Mark Vigliotta wrote in an August statement.

Local S6 and the three other unions at the shipyard endorsed Collins during the 2014 election. That was the first time the union ever threw its weight behind a Republican.

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