Richard Dumais (from left), Dave Beaulieu, Mark Jordan and Scott Beedy, picket in front of Bath Iron Works on Washington Street in Bath on Wednesday, July 22. The four BIW electricians said they saved some money before the strike began, but they’re weighing how to earn a little money while on strike. Kathleen O’Brien / Times Record

BATH — Many members of Bath Iron Works’ largest union have taken side jobs to survive the financial squeeze that comes with being on strike for nearly five weeks and counting.

Eliot Scott started his job as a BIW electrician just over a year ago after leaving his 12-year career as an EMT to get benefits, such as health insurance. One month into a strike that could drag on for months more, and he’s considering a reversal of course.

“I’m about to see if I can get my job back as an EMT to make ends meet,” said Scott. “I’ve always wanted to work at BIW, and I finally got the opportunity, but one year later, we’re on strike. I don’t want to be on strike, I want to work, but I’m not going to cross the picket line.”

Machinist Union Local S6, which represents 4,300 of the shipyard’s 6,700 employees, went on strike June 22 after rejecting the 3-year contract proposal over disagreements about the company’s plans to continue hiring subcontractors and proposed changes to worker seniority privileges.

Scott isn’t alone in seeking alternative income. Several BIW workers spoke to The Times Record about how they’re putting food on the table and making mortgage payments in the midst of the strike.

Jarred Steele, 22, started as a welder in January, as whispers of a potential strike started floating around the shipyard.

One month into the strike, Steele said he found a job as a landscaper in Scarborough in order to make his rent, car and insurance payments, but said he’d “much rather have my normal job back.”

He said he wished he had saved more money before the strike and that he hadn’t bought a motorcycle before the strike.

Richard Dumais, a BIW electrician of 36 years, said he saved money before the strike but took a job at Lowe’s to bring in money.

“My wife has a job so she’s getting income and that helps, but I’m not making what I made at BIW,” he said. “We cut back on things like eating out and going places, and we just have to watch what we spend.”

Dumais said he has been involved in two previous Local S6 strikes and took on temporary jobs during both. The last strike, in 2000, lasted 55 days, and the strike in 1985 lasted 99 days.

Despite holding his position for over three decades and remaining committed to the union, he said he’s prepared to leave his job at BIW because he’s “tired of dealing with BIW and the contracts. After 36 years, it gets old.

“I have a job interview coming up and if I get that job, I’ll retire from BIW and take that job for the next six or seven years,” said Dumais. “I wasn’t planning on doing that, but the opportunity is there and I’m going to take it.”

Mark Jordan, a BIW electrician of 32 years, said he hasn’t gotten a side job yet, but may soon in order to get health insurance while on strike.

Strikers lost their health insurance late last month unless they opted to pay for a plan out of pocket, which could cost up to a couple of thousand dollars a month.

The union gives members a $150 weekly stipend during the strike, if they picket for four hours. That falls far short of what they make normally. Local S6 officials set up an online donation link on the union’s social media page, where people can donate to union members in need.

Union officials couldn’t be reached Wednesday to disclose how much they’ve received in donations or how those funds are being dispersed.

Jason Brossi, co-owner of Highbrow, a medical marijuana store chain, fed about 100 picketers through Salty Boyz, a local food truck, Wednesday afternoon.

“Each of them is probably struggling financially and eating is a necessity, so we wanted to be able to help them,” said Brossi, who was once a Communications of America union member. “I empathize with them, and now we’re in a position to do something to show our support and give back.”

The ongoing strike is thinning wallets, but members who spoke to The Times Record argued the union should continue to fight for changes to the company’s proposed contract.

“I think we need to be out [on strike] for a while — at least two months — because the longer it goes the better it is for us,” said Jordan. “The company will keep falling further and further behind the longer we’re out.”

BIW President Dirk Lesko has said the shipyard was at least six months behind schedule before the strike began.

BIW AND LOCAL S6 CONTINUE TO QUARREL

Union leaders said in an online post Wednesday that they sent proposed solutions to the stalemate over BIW’s subcontracting proposal to Phebe Novakovic, CEO of General Dynamics, in the hopes that her input would encourage BIW to restart contract negotiations.

Details of those proposals weren’t immediately available Wednesday. The union has long pushed back against the shipyard’s efforts to bring in subcontractors, arguing the shipyard should lean on experienced workers and hire new employees to speed up production.

Novakovic forwarded the message to Lesko, who responded to Local S6 President Chris Wiers with a letter of his own. Lesko said BIW’s proposed changes to how the company hires subcontractors were made to access resources quickly and help keep the shipyard competitive when vying for Navy contracts.

“The process for engaging subcontractors under the existing contract language has failed us all in that regard,” Lesko wrote. “However, let me assure you that BIW will not use the flexibility we seek in subcontracting to replace [union] jobs.”

Lesko also wrote the company “respects the key elements of seniority. BIW does, however, need the ability to make work assignments that meet business needs — which do not always align with the direct application of seniority.”

In BIW’s proposed “best, last and final ” contract offer (the one the union later rejected), the company asked for the ability to shuffle workers around to jobs or shifts where they’re most needed to increase production, but those assignments are usually decided based on union seniority.

“Remember when BIW said they weren’t attacking our seniority,” union leaders wrote to members. “We are of the opinion that they are, and this letter is consistent with that viewpoint.”

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