June 06, 2020

Machinists union weighs local’s future BIW unit in receivership as talks loom

TOPSHAM – A meeting to sort out the status of the largest union at Bath Iron Works got under way Monday as the international union and local members sorted out allegations that threw the union into disarray with a contract deadline looming.

The machinists union’s Local S6 was placed into receivership last month by the international union because of accusations including financial improprieties, pornography on computers, election irregularities and a backlog of grievances.

Much of the morning session focused on pornography allegations. Local S6 President Mike Keenan said photos that led to allegations of child pornography were photos taken by a “local member of his own 3-year-old daughter and niece in the bathtub.”

Initially, 10 officials were suspended but all except for three have been reinstated. Keenan is one of the three who are still suspended.

The daylong hearing, which was open only to union members, adjourned by late afternoon and was scheduled to resume this morning.

The accusations divided the union as frustrated members gathered Monday to give testimony and to learn the results of an investigation by the international union.

“It’s a nightmare right now,” said Dave Langella, a materials clerk and Local S6 member. “I just want to get it over and done with so we can contract and work on negotiations.”

Many of the union members had orange stickers on their hard hats reading “We Believe in Democracy … Elected not Selected.” But union members wearing orange “S6 Security” vests warned that stickers wouldn’t be allowed inside. Neither were cell phones, recorders or cameras.

The evidence presented will be evaluated by union members from other regions, appointed by international President R. Thomas Buffenbarger. They will make a recommendation, either to continue trusteeship or to dissolve it and reinstate the union leaders.

There’s no prescribed time frame for the recommendation or decision to take place, according to John Carr, spokesman for the international.

Stoney Dionne, past Local S6 president and head of a committee that wants to see the leadership reinstated, said he’d like to see the trusteeship dissolved.

The last thing the union needs, he said, is a change in leadership as the union and company sit down to negotiate a new contract. “This is doing nothing but disrupting the negotiations,” said Dionne, a heavy-equipment operator.

Negotiations are set to begin next month, with an eye toward reaching an agreement before the current contract expires at midnight May 18.

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