Union members picket outside Bath Iron Works, Monday, June 22, 2020, in Bath, Maine. The union is warning outsiders not to cross its picket lines. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Bath Iron Works filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board on Friday against its largest union over an alleged threat made against union members who cross picket lines to return to work.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local S6, which has about 4,400 of the total 6,600 workers at the Navy shipyard, issued a blunt message Thursday that warned that it will fine union members who cross picket lines and blamed the company for issuing “propaganda” against the strike.

“BIW has mailed out propaganda, had supervisors try to sell this contract based on economics, avoided the real issues, and irresponsibly provided information on how to resign from the Union so you can cross the picket line and work as a scab,” according to the statement. “Once we return to work, anyone who took the advice from management and resigned from the Union will still be required to pay full union dues. The Union will fine every single member who crossed the picket line for the total amount of wages they individually earned from BIW until the strike is over. BIW has once again steered you wrong.”

The message concluded with the line, “No man has a right to scab so long as there is a pool of water to drown his carcass in, or a rope long enough to hang his body with,” which was originally written by noted author Jack London in the short story, “Ode to a Scab.”

BIW President Dirk Lesko responded Friday by saying that the union statement was a violation of the National Labor Relations Act, which allows employees who resume work the legal right to do so without being harassed or threatened with violence. It also allows workers who resign their union membership prior to crossing the picket line to avoid paying fines or being required to pay full union dues.

“We are extremely disappointed that union leaders would make false and threatening statements to the very employees they are supposed to represent,” Lesko said in a statement released on Friday afternoon. “We take these issues very seriously and will continue to ensure our employees’ rights are protected.”

Friday is the 18th day of the strike, the first at Bath Iron Works in more than 20 years. About 87 percent of the union’s voting members opted to reject a three-year contract with BIW, citing subcontracting, health benefits and overtime, among other issues, on June 21. The strike began the next day.