The 4,300 members of Local S6, BIW’s largest union, could return to work Monday after nine weeks on strike if a majority of members vote to accept a new contract between the shipyard and the union.  Kathleen O’Brien

BATH — The end to a strike at Bath Iron Works that has dragged on for over two months hinges on the approval of a new contract proposal between the shipyard and its largest union this weekend.

The 4,300 members of Machinists Union Local S6, BIW’s largest union, will start voting on a new contract with the shipyard Friday, potentially ending the strike after nine weeks without pay or health insurance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Members will vote on the new contract online and via telephone from Friday through noon on Sunday.

If a majority of union members vote to accept the new contract, they’ll return to work and their health insurance will be restored on Monday, Aug. 24. If the strike ends Monday, it will have lasted for 63 days. The last Local S6 strike in 2000  lasted 55 days.

The new contract members are voting on was crafted with the help of a federal mediator, who was called in after a six-week stalemate between the two parties. After a week of meetings that ran late into the night, the union and company reached a tentative agreement that was unanimously backed by the Local S6 negotiating committee.

In an online announcement to members Wednesday, union leaders wrote the union is proud of its members for standing up “to the greedy company and knowingly sacrificed to fight for what was right, a fair contract.”


“We all must remember that throughout the months and months of this process our membership has unified more than ever before,” union leaders wrote. “The power of solidarity is a testament to the strength the committee had at the table.”

According to the union’s post, the Local S6 negotiating committee traveled to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Winpisinger Education and Technology Center in Maryland to receive “specialized training in negotiating” before returning to the bargaining table with BIW.

Union leaders and union members have said they’re pleased with the revised contract because it preserves several abilities the union was at risk of losing if the shipyard’s original contract was approved.

According to the union, the company’s “last, best and final” would give BIW the ability to hire subcontractors without justifying its reasons to the union. The shipyard would have also had the power to move workers to different tasks or shifts regardless of seniority.

Those two disagreements are the main reasons 87% of union members voted against the original contract, beginning the strike on June 22.

The new contract maintains the current subcontracting language and ensures shift changes will remain based on seniority.


The new contract also includes 3% wage increases in each year of the contract and continuation of existing benefits to include health care plans and a pension, according to a BIW news release.

BIW Spokesman David Hench declined to comment Thursday on the upcoming vote, but in a letter to employees released last week, BIW President Dirk Lesko said the negotiating committee “worked to address the concerns of employees, improve schedule performance and improve the exchange of information needed to solve problems.”

“The tentative agreement includes provisions for continued support by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service,” Lesko wrote Tuesday. “This agreement, coupled with significant hiring and major investments in facilities and production processes, better positions BIW for the future. … I look forward to welcoming our LS6 employees back to work soon so we can return our collective focus to building ships for the U.S. Navy.”

Local S6 President Chris Wiers couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.

In the final week before the vote, union leaders ceased all picketing in front of BIW facilities in Bath and Brunswick as “an act of good faith,” according to the Local S6 spokesman Tim Suitter.

Hench confirmed Thursday the temporary security guards hired during the strike will be leaving the facility and the fencing around the shipyard will be taken down if the new contract is ratified.

The union announced it will hold a solidarity rally on Saturday at 5 p.m. The International Union President Robert Martinez will address the union, along with Maine House Speaker and US Senate candidate Sara Gideon, State Senate President Troy Jackson and State Sen. Eloise Vitelli.

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