USW says its sales contract was made at a key shipyard in Newport News, Va.

Just before 6 a.m. Tuesday, the president of United Steelworkers Local 8888 sent an email to members announcing the ratification of a contract to sell Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) in Newport News, Va. NNS is Virginia’s largest industrial employer, producing aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines for the United States Navy, and is a subsidiary of one of the nation’s largest defense companies, Huntington Ingalls Industries.

Barely concealing his glee, Charles Spivey titled the email “Contract Ratified!” He called the vote “landmark” and said the contract – essentially unchanged from an earlier version, which rank-and-file workers rejected last November by more than 2 to 1 – had passed this time with 3,678 votes for and 533 against. While that’s true – and there’s widespread skepticism about the accuracy of the vote tally – the USW got its deal through with the votes of barely a third of its 10,000 members in the shipyard .

A Newport News Shipbuilding worker installs a pipe hanger in the Delaware Virginia-class submarine (HII Media)

In a “highlights” document sent to members on February 3, the union fraudulently claimed that “the agreement includes no concessions or discounts and provides for financial improvements, as well as improvements in pensions and benefits and benefits. ‘other provisions’. He added: “We are convinced that this agreement represents the best way forward and strongly encourage you to ratify it.”

Spivey bragged that the five-year deal “contains over $22,000 in fresh money based on a 40-hour week.” However, this figure fails to keep up with soaring inflation, currently at 7.5%. On top of that, the contract includes health care premium increases of 5% in 2024, 2025 and 2026. In other words, it was a “victory” for everyone – shareholders, union bureaucrats and warmongering politicians. – except workers.

Highlighting the connection between big business, the USW and the Democratic Party, Congressman Bobby Scott celebrated the news of an agreement by saying, “I congratulate USW Local 8888 President Spivey, and Newport News Shipbuilding President Boykin for coming together and reaching a hard-fought deal. for the benefit of the best shipbuilders in our country. As a representative of Newport News and chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, I was very pleased to see Steelworkers Local 8888 ratify a new collective agreement that will cover more than 10,000 Newport workers. News Shipbuilding. This agreement means that our shipbuilders will be well paid and protected at work. Newport News shipbuilding remains a vital part of the Hampton Roads economy and an integral part of our Navy and national security.

Shipyard workers who spoke with the World Socialist Website had a different assessment. A relatively new worker said, “I’ve heard a lot of people say today ‘there’s no way [the vote count was accurate] but how can we prove it? She added that the pay raises “weren’t worth anything.”

“The contract is a shameful excuse for ‘collective bargaining’ and is quite similar to the contract originally offered last year which was rejected. And somehow this poll showed overwhelming support,” another worker said sarcastically.

“Our all-powerful union has fought tooth and nail for a contract that at this rate won’t even help with skyrocketing gas prices, skyrocketing cost of groceries, rent increases of 13 to 18% in this area. It’s pitiful to say the least.

Angry workers also took to the union local’s Facebook page to express their disgust at the contract terms and the voting process.

“You should all be ashamed of yourselves. You sold us all out,” one worker commented. “BS contract! It was rigged!” said another.

One worker joked: ‘Please post the address where we should send our notice of resignation. I will get my raise by not paying you the weekly dues. Another added: “I’m currently thinking about making t-shirts… Screwed in 22.”

Another asked: “Do they really think we are all stupid enough not to realize that this vote was rigged?

The suspicions of electoral fraud are indeed justified. On November 16, members rejected the original tentative agreement by 1,312 to 684. Rather than calling workers on strike after the resounding defeat of their sell-out agreement, the USW kept workers on the job for months without a new contract to guarantee the company’s profitability. and military preparation.

Reeling from the vote and worried about the scale of a November 20 union rally, Local 8888 President Spivey tried to intimidate workers in a public letter discouraging the strike, saying, “J lived through the dark days of a strike against the company. It wasn’t pretty. It broke up marriages and divided families.

On Dec. 7, Spivey told shipbuilders that members should be ready for a “killer fight” with “economic hardship that comes with missing paychecks and scrambling to make ends meet.” That is to say that the workers, and not the company, must be afraid of a strike!

A December 10 post on Local 8888’s Facebook page warned workers to “prepare and protect their families financially,” making it clear that they would get little or nothing from the giant “Strike and defence” of the Steelworkers. Then, on December 16, the union organized a curious rally whose start time, end time and location were masked and changed in an effort to reduce attendance and depress morale.

Since the emergence of the new tentative agreement in late January, Spivey and Local 8888 management have relentlessly promoted the pro-business deal by videossocial media posts and emails to members.

After watching the USW block strike action, drag out the process for months, threaten to starve workers if they strike, and spread nothing but lies and intimidation, the majority of workers have issued a vote of no confidence abstaining, while others reluctantly voted for the deal, knowing the USW would yield nothing better.

During this period, Spivey and his co-conspirators in the Ingalls Shipbuilding unions in Pascagoula, Mississippi undermined any possibility of joint action at the two facilities. Meanwhile, the USW kept 30,000 oil refinery and petrochemical workers on the job for more than three weeks after their contracts expired on Feb. 1, then announced a deal, just days after USW President Tom Conway met with President Biden and officials. defense and energy departments. Conway blocked a strike and agreed to a deal, which he said did not add to “inflationary pressures,” as part of the union’s support for Biden’s war preparations against Russia.

While the Russian invasion of Ukraine is opposed, among the working class there is no support for a new military escalation by the United States and NATO, which could quickly turn into a war world waged with nuclear weapons. Under conditions of relentless war propaganda from both parties and the media, the growth of opposition among defense industry workers is seen as particularly dangerous for the Biden administration and its minions in the union apparatus. In addition to shipbuilding workers in Virginia and Mississippi, other defense workers are waging ongoing struggles.

Nearly 300 workers at Collins Aerospace’s wheels and brakes division in Troy, Ohio, were locked out Feb. 21 after rejecting the company’s “last, best, and last offer” by a margin of 230 to 37. The workers, who are members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) manufacture wheels and brakes for a number of commercial and military aircraft, including the F-16 Fighting Falcon, U-2 Dragon Lady and LM- 100J. Collins Aerospace is a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies, a giant aerospace, defense and intelligence conglomerate.

Last Friday, more than 360 workers at the Eaton-Cobham Mission Systems manufacturing plant in Davenport, Iowa, rejected a second contract offer negotiated by the company and locals 388 and 1191 by 97%. the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMW).

In each case, workers are defying the demands of corporations, the two big business parties and unions for ever greater sacrifices to raise the revenues of the giant corporations, which profit from the war.

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