Brothers and Sisters,
As we all know, all of us have an important vote coming up this weekend and there are still many questions and concerns from many members. Local S6 would like to provide some perspective.
Let’s start with COVID-19. This pandemic started to ravage the world earlier this year in the February/March timeframe. Life, as we knew it changed in an instant and we, were all forced to do things we weren’t used to. To be more specific and closer to home, the work environment changed at GDBIW, impacting the way business is being conducted and placing the Union in a reactionary position unlike ever before. Liberal leave, news/media, state and federal legislators, facemasks, travel restrictions, parking, and LOA’s to name a few. All while trying to build the best ships in the world for the US Navy.
Through that, both parties were preparing for contract negotiations in April, with the contract ending May 17th at midnight. With all the unknowns surrounding executive orders, social distancing, and restrictions placed on large gatherings, decisions had to be made to accommodate the need to not only sit in a room and negotiate with GDBIW but how we were to vote on a contract. Everything was moved forward a month, allowing for preparations for an area large enough to negotiate in, while abiding by state executive orders, and securing a viable third-party method of voting.
The Union Negotiating Committee traveled to the IAMAW Winpisinger Education and Technology Center for specialized training in negotiating. They worked extremely hard on preparation, knowing this was going to be a fight. The committee returned and continued to prepare while trying to build solidarity with the membership.
Once negotiations started, the committee provided day to day updates on what was going on. They traveled to EBMF, CW, Hardings, and the Main Yard on all shifts to put the hammer down with the membership over the displeasure surrounding GDBIWs wants. They held rallies to build strength and solidarity, talked with members to educate them on the facts, all the while building momentum to regain the power of the Union. They fought against the Company, who was disciplining our members for concerted activity. They won and protected the rights of our members.
After three painful weeks of negotiations, our Negotiations Committee voted unanimously to reject the contract based on subcontracting and seniority eroding language, along with high insurance costs. We, as a Union, voted overwhelmingly to go on strike (87%). We stood up to the greedy company and knowingly sacrificed to fight for what was right, a fair contract.
A few weeks into the strike the Union reached out to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for their assistance in getting back to the table and getting our members back to work. Initial talks fell short until phone calls and letters from Local S6 Leadership were written to the IAMAW President Robert Martinez, Congress, General Dynamics, and the Secretary of the Navy. Talks ensued behind the scenes, resulting in the Director of FMCS, Richard Giacolone, as appointed by President Trump, to get GDBIW and Local S6 back to the table and enter mediation. Upon entering mediation in the first week of August, General Dynamics sent Executive Vice President Rob Smith to sit with GDBIW. These two individuals are what truly allowed the Negotiating Committee the ability to prove GDBIW didn’t need what they wanted. It allowed them to prove that the 253 years of shipbuilding experience sitting at the table on the Union side would help get GDBIW back on track. They provided reasonable options that had been crafted while leading up to negotiations, while on strike, and in the month leading up to mediation. The committee justified everything proposed and provided historical practice and economic value that would result in regaining schedule without stripping seniority and subcontracting our work.
The result was a hard-fought proposal, endorsed by the committee, that removed language that put our membership on strike. We all must remember that throughout the months and months of this process our membership has unified more than ever before. The power of solidarity is a testament to the strength the committee had at the table. We all must remember why we went on strike, the state and federal legislators that came and picketed, the Unions across the state and around the country that either visited or sent financial support, the community standing strong, and all the sacrifices we all made to get us where we are today.
We all need to keep everything in perspective – the long tireless fight, the tremendous support, and the incredible sacrifice we all endured. Being on strike is an ugly reality that gets everyone emotional, frustrated, and angry. We must all remember that this fight was about non-economic issues. Rarely, if ever, does any Union come out of a strike with raises and a signing bonus. It is generally unheard of. In 1985 Local S6 came back from striking for $0.05 less than the original offer.
Everyone needs to realize, we deserve more money, we are essential workers who build the best ships for the US Navy, but that was not our fight. Continuing to stay out would only cause us to lose all of our support, everything we fought for would go away, and we would start over. We would look like the greedy Union that various people accusing us of being. In 1938, in one of the biggest hits to the Union movement, the US Supreme Court ruled in NLRB v. Mackay Radio & Telegraph that an employer may hire strikebreakers and is not bound to discharge any of them if or when the strike ends. This provides corporations an instrumental method for a firm to replace economic strikers and to resist their return to employment after a strike. Local S6 is only providing facts, we are not telling anyone how to vote. Everyone needs to be as educated as they can be to be able to accurately vote.
Finally, to address the non-picketing this week. Bullet 19 in the strike settlement agreement stipulates that, pending the ratification vote on the TA, and upon signing this agreement, the Union will immediately withdraw all pickets. The Union did not cave in. This is a step forward and gesture of good faith to show we are willing to work together. The Company agreed to credit us with 40 hrs toward our vacation accrual for the month of August so members choosing to return on August 24th wouldn’t lose it. We have a tentative agreement on the table to be voted on, lets see what happens.
Through this entire fight, the Union has had the memberships back and some people think this was a bad decision. It’s unthinkable that in some people’s eyes the Union failed them and stopped fighting. That is simply not true. We will never stop fighting for you.
We encourage all our members to come down to the Union Hall, ask questions to the leadership, and get educated. People living behind the protection of their phones simply breed rumors and only fracture what this Union has worked so hard to build back up, our unity, and solidarity. Distrust and fracturing are issues of the past. Our leadership is united for the betterment of our membership. We are simply trying to give some perspective and education so everyone can make an informed decision when voting. The Union is looking forward to hearing from you and helping in any way we can.
United We’re One, Divided We’re Done.
Local S6 Leadership