Shipyard unions, advocates call Sen. Shaheen ‘critical’ for yard
By Hadley Barndollar
August 24, 2020
PORTSMOUTH – Union leaders and proponents of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on Monday called Sen. Jeanne Shaheen a “critical friend” and “top advocate” as they highlighted her efforts on their behalf amid her bid for reelection to the U.S. Senate.
During a press conference at Prescott Park – with the cranes of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the background across the Piscataqua River – Seacoast Shipyard Association President John Joyal said Shaheen has “delivered hundreds of millions of dollars” to the federal military installation since she first became a senator.
Incumbent Democrat Shaheen, a member of both the Senate Appropriations and Armed Services committees, is running for reelection for a third term representing New Hampshire in Washington, D.C. In the general election in November, Shaheen is expected to meet either Republican Don Bolduc, of Stratham, or President Donald Trump-endorsed Corky Messner.
Joyal, a retired shipyard worker, said Shaheen will “always answer our call and get to work on behalf of the men and women at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.” Joyal’s organization is an advocacy group working on behalf of the shipyard’s continued operation and success.
PNSY has an economic impact of more than $1 billion, according to the SSA’s annual report, and a workforce that has surpassed 8,000.
Shaheen notably came to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s aid last year when the Trump administration sought to divert Department of Defense funding to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall. As much as $244 million for construction projects at PNSY were in question, while Shaheen led efforts to guarantee the funding be delivered on time.
During the COVID-19 crisis, as PNSY continued operation after being deemed essential, Shaheen led queries of both the New Hampshire and Maine delegations to the secretary of the Navy and shipyard officials about the welfare of employees on base, access to adequate personal protective equipment and availability of leave options.
Bill Webber, president of American Federation of Government Workers Employees Local 2024, said Shaheen “took the Department of Defense to task” to make sure PNSY was exempted from a hiring freeze in 2017.
“I know when I go to see the senator, when I bring issues, she’s always been a big supporter and an advocate for us,” Webber said. “If it wasn’t for her, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
John Leavitt, regional manager for Carpenters Local 352, called Shaheen a “powerful advocate” who “understands how important this base is to our workers, local economy and national defense.”
Leavitt specifically noted Shaheen’s willingness to stand up for PNSY when the Trump border wall threat arose.
Stating the importance of having a representative to “watch out for us,” Brandon Clithero, president of Sheet Metal International Local 546, said Shaheen has been involved in “almost every major project and improvement since her election to Senate.”
Shaheen said she was “so honored” to receive support from the individuals speaking on her behalf Monday.
“The importance of our submarine fleet cannot be overstated,” Shaheen said, citing growing military threats in Russia and China.
Shaheen said she has fought against the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) process during multiple administrations, both “Democrat and Republican.”
“We need someone who will fight for the employees of the shipyard,” she said.