There’s heavy-duty labor-union trouble brewing at the Bath Iron Works, the Navy shipyard in Maine run by General Dynamics, owner of National Steel and Shipbuilding here. Last year, as part of a turnaround effort, the Washington-based military contracting behemoth dispatched Fred Harris, chief executive of NASSCO, to simultaneously run Bath.
According to an August 22 Defense News report, Harris “attempted to install at Bath techniques and approaches that were successful in San Diego. One oft-reported example was an effort to hire non-permanent electricians to handle the surge in ship construction.” But unlike employees in laid-back San Diego, Maine’s union workers have rebelled. “‘FOF’ signs began to appear around Bath — a non-complimentary acronym that aimed union opposition personally at the yard president. Street demonstrations appeared earlier this year, and the yard’s troubles are being regularly reported in Maine’s media. The Bangor Daily News called the problems at Bath the ‘company’s largest labor unrest in decades.’”
It isn’t the first time Harris has faced controversy. Last year, the shipyard executive spearheaded a high-dollar General Dynamics–financed referendum drive backed by Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer that overturned the Barrio Logan community plan. Harris and his allies, including GOP ex-mayor and chamber of commerce head Jerry Sanders, maintained the plan would hinder shipyard operations and threaten jobs. The campaign was backed by GOP kingpin and then-U-T San Diego publisher Douglas Manchester, whose paper omitted reporting that General Dynamics owns a vast maquiladora plant in Mexico, to which a growing portion of San Diego shipyard work has been outsourced.
Depending on the outcome of closed-door negotiations now ongoing between Bath’s labor and management regarding achieving a new contract by a May deadline next year, things could get hotter still, says Defense News. “Has it shown up yet in their finances?” the trade journal quoted military stock analyst Byron Callan as saying. “I would say no it hasn’t, but I think that’s a question people should ask.”