Exclusive: Local 696 members oppose Fincantieri Marinette Marine contract signed by international president

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 10:18 PM CST
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MARINETTE, Wis. (WBAY) - There is a public dispute over a union contract with Fincantieri Marinette Marine. Boilermakers Local 696 say its international president signed a contract over the holiday break members opposed seven times.

Boilermakers Local 696 have been working without a contract for more than 19 months. Matt Moses, of Local 696, tells Action 2 News the president’s move was undemocratic.

“Democracy is our voice. We vote for everything. We pay our union dues, and what do we get for it now? If we don’t have seniority, we don’t have a voice. Then why do we pay dues and what is the point?” Moses said.

He’s been working at Fincantieri Marinette Marine for 14 years. Local 696 rejected seven contract offers from Fincantieri and picketed in November.

RELATED: Union workers at Fincantieri Marinette Marine picket over pay, benefits

The collective bargaining committee for Local 696 agreed to revisit the contract negotiations with the shipbuilder after the new year, according to Moses. The union had rejected an offer on December 11.

But that’s not what happened. Instead, the president of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers signed the contract at the end of 2020.

“We’ve gone how long without a raise now and now we’re having to settle with what we’re basically told we have to take,” Moses said.

In a letter sent to members, which Action 2 News obtained, International Brotherhood Boilermakers President Newton B. Jones criticized Local 696 saying the holdout is endangering a contract with the U.S. Navy and “it has the potential to negatively impact other work opportunities.”

“I don’t know what to do from here. We all want answers, we want to know why and we don’t understand why it’s taking so long. We’re on the second week yet and still no answers. But, we still have to follow the new [collective bargaining agreement],” Moses said.

Moses says his members haven’t seen what was signed by the international president.

According to the union, employees in the last five years have received a 5% raise with no raises in the past two years as their health insurance has risen 19%.

Another sticking point for Local 696 was Fincantieri discussed reforming seniority for union workers when it comes to shifts, making them work 12 hour shifts on the weekends as oppose to eight hours Monday through Friday.

Fincantieri is in the midst of building the most advanced frigate in the world.

The United States Department of Defense awarded the company $800 million in 2020 to build the first-in-class guided missile frigate. In May of 2021, Fincantieri was awarded another $553.8 million to build a second one for the U.S. Navy.

Nola Hitchcock Cross is a Milwaukee based labor lawyer and says the Department of Labor could get involved in disputes between unions, but it’s the last resort.

“That’s normally how it happens. They keep it in house, they work it out in house. They don’t air their dirty laundry to you know either the company or the department of labor,” she said.

Action 2 News reached out to the international union group and they did not respond to our requests for comment.

In a statement, Fincantieri tells Action 2 News a new collective bargaining agreement was finalized on December 31, 2021.

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