Barbecue brings fellowship, bargaining update to 8888

Who knew bargaining and barbecue went together so well? 

Just ask the shipbuilders of USW Local 8888 in Newport News, Virginia. More than 700 union members turned out for a special cookout on June 28 to hear updates from negotiators working on a new collective bargaining agreement. It was a timely show of unity and spirit, because the current contract expires July 9, 2017.  “Rock the Boat” buttons were quickly snatched up and 135 new activists were recruited for solidarity actions at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Local 8888 Negotiations 2017

Local 8888 President Arnold Outlaw fired up the crowd when he said, “This company has made a lot money off of our sweat, and we want our fair share, not excuses!” 

The union’s chief negotiator, Fred Redmond, framed bargaining with the company as “tough, and slow-moving.” 

Rising health care costs are a major roadblock, with the company wanting to shift more burden onto hourly employees.

But Redmond, who negotiated the last two Local 8888 contracts and is the Steelworkers International Vice President for Human Affairs, said the union’s negotiating team is strongly resisting the company’s position. Redmond also assured the crowd that union negotiators would work hard to try to secure fair pay raises. 

He also thanked the membership for showing enthusiasm and solidarity by wearing “Rock the Boat” buttons, participating in sign actions, and passing out flyers.

 “Believe me, it means a lot,” he said. “The company is watching, looking for any weakness or divisions. We’re going to need your support even more as we tackle the big issues to bring back a fair contract for ratification.”

Local 8888 -- one of the USW's largest locals -- represents 9,700 hourly employees at the shipyard, which is the sole designer, builder and refueler of naval aircraft carriers and one of two providers of navy nuclear submarines.

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