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Group Of More Than 200 Specialized Workers Employed At The Newport News Shipyard Finally Win Their Long-Running Fight For Union Representation

Published Thursday, February 11, 2016

(NEWPORT NEWS, VIRGINIA) - More than 200 Specialized Workers at Newport News Shipbuilding, which is considered crucial to the yard's operation, have won a long-running fight to be represented by a Union.

Negotiations began this week between Huntington Ingalls Industries, the shipyard's parent company, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), Union and company Officials announced.  The focus will be Wages and Benefits for Radiological Technicians and Lab Personnel.  Among their duties: testing radiation levels on the nuclear-powered ships exclusively built at the Newport News yard.  "It's a ‘very crucial role’ and ‘very important’ to the shipyard," Union Spokesman Bob Wood said.

Notable developments date back at least to February 2012, when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) certified the IAMAW as the Collective Bargaining Representative for Shipyard Radiological Control Technicians, Trainees, Laboratory Techs and Calibration Techs.

The company replied later that year, saying it believed the NLRB decision was erroneous and eventually challenged the decision in the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.  At the time, Huntington Ingalls contended the NLRB did not have enough legally appointed members to make its decision to uphold Union Certification.  Further, it said the Board erred by allowing a small group of Technical Employees to organize.  In a 2013 court filing, company officials warned against granting representation to such a small group.  Huntington Ingalls' "entire nuclear operation would grind to a standstill were the (radiological control technicians) to engage in a work stoppage," according to court documents.

In July 2013, the court handed down a mixed decision.  It said President Obama acted unconstitutionally when he appointed three NLRB Members while the Senate was on recess, a victory for the shipyard.  However, the three-judge panel rejected a separate shipyard argument: that the Union Election of the 223-member Machinists local had been improperly carried out.

The final decision that paved the way for negotiations was handed down in November from the U.S. Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit, which affirmed the NLRB's decision to grant Union Representation.

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