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Senator tours future USS Zumwalt stealth destroyer

BATH, Maine — U.S. Sen. Susan Collins told members of Bath Iron Works’ four unions on Tuesday that a $21 million contract for design work on a new class of U.S. Coast Guard cutter was only part of “a very good year” for the yard, and that the design contract will help maintain a steady workforce.

On Feb. 11, the Coast Guard announced that BIW was one of three shipyards to complete the next phase of design work for the 25 next-generation cutters. The Coast Guard will select one team to move forward on further design in 18 months. The total cost of the 25 ships is $12.1 billion and would likely net the shipbuilder $7.5 billion, according to Collins’ office.

“I’m really excited about the possibility of Coast Guard work supplementing the Navy work for the yard,” Collins said at the Washington Street headquarters of Local S6 of the Machinists union, the largest union at Bath Iron Works. “It fits in just perfectly and will help keep a steady flow of work.”

Although the new contract work won’t result in new jobs for several years, Jay Wadleigh, president of Local S6, said Tuesday that Bath Iron Works has already recalled more than 150 of the almost 260 S6 members laid off last year. Furthermore, he said, BIW is currently hiring 50 electricians.

Marc Lindvall of Georgetown, who works as a stagebuilder at BIW, is 47 and within a few years of being able to draw a pension. For workers like him, and for those hired more recently, the recent contract announcements only confirm what they already knew.

“Where else can you come out with a high school education and jump right into a $55,000-a-year job?” Lindvall asked. “Every time you flip on the news, companies are folding. When it comes to a good-paying job, this is the best there is.”

Collins visited Bath to tour the future USS Zumwalt, the first of three DDG 1000 stealth destroyers to be built at the shipyard. Prior to the tour, union leadership presented her with letters signed by thousands of BIW employees thanking her for her work securing $100 million in defense spending for a fifth DDG-51 destroyer that had been in jeopardy because of automatic spending cuts known as sequestration.

Collins called the letters “heartwarming” and told the workers, “I have no higher priority in Washington than this shipyard.”

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