NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) - Safety concerns following the Washington Navy Yard shooting prompted local union workers to call for an urgent meeting with Huntington Ingalls Industries.
United Steelworkers Local 8888 represents 11,000 workers at the Newport News Shipyard. The union president, Arnold Outlaw, said there is not enough security at the shipyard’s turnstiles. Contractors and employees aren't checked for weapons when entering the shipyard.
"We need something there at these gates," said Outlaw. "Metal detectors or something."
Outlaw and other contractors and workers explained to WAVY.com there is an identification card used to enter the shipyard. While everyone is required to report an ID card missing if they lose it, there is still the concern it could unexpectedly fall into the wrong hands.
"If I lose my ID, somebody picks it up, it could be a terrorist. It could be anybody," said Robert Valle, a contractor.
James Pace has worked at the shipyard for 12 years. He says he's comfortable with the level of security.
"They run drills through here, just because of the type of work we do," explained Pace. "They know what to do if we have an issue."
Outlaw has written a letter to HII management asking for a meeting. He said he has two main concerns.
The first is the union wants to know what managers plan to do to beef up security and prevent a situation similar to what happened at the Navy Yard.
The second concern Outlaw has is about contractors. He said contractors come and go all the time. Outlaw wants to know how contractors are screened prior to working at the shipyard.
"We don't how they're selected," said Outlaw. "How they're interviewed or what kind of security they go through. I don't know if it's the same we go through."
The letter was sent to management on Friday, and Outlaw said he wants to meet with them in the next few days.
Labor-management meetings are nothing new at HII. Outlaw explained there have been meetings before where safety has been brought up.
Christie Miller with Huntington Ingalls Industries released the following statement:
Newport News Shipbuilding meets with union representation on a regular basis to ensure an open line of communication. We are happy to meet with them to discuss any concerns they may have and address them in an appropriate manner.
Letter sent to Director of Labor Relations, Newport News Shipbuilding:
Like you, I was shocked and saddened and alarmed by the recent tragic mass shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC. Such a senseless loss of life and injuries is another grim reminder that gun violence can erupt any time, anywhere and take down anybody - even a few blocks from where the President of the United States lives and works.
We know the perpetrator of the shooting spree was a mentally disturbed Navy contractor who entered the defense facility with a firearm concealed under his coat. When he passed through the turnstiles at the entrance to the Navy Yard building, surprisingly, there were no metal detectors, which might have tipped off security personnel and possibly prevented the tragedy that followed.
That thought has haunted me for days now, because a similar scenario could occur at any one of the entrances to the Newport News Shipyard. Currently, contractors (and company employees) can pass through the turnstiles without being checked for firearms -- or even chemical weapons. I believe this security gap poses a substantial safety threat that the company should address immediately.
As president of USW Local 8888, I worry constantly about the safety and well-being of our members. They have a right to work in an environment free of the threat of gun violence. Many have raised concerns with me about their safety at the shipyard since the Navy Yard shootings. But what can I tell them to ease their stress?
Consequently, I am requesting an urgent labor-management meeting with you to discuss how the company is screening contractors entering the shipyard and addressing the fear of undetected weapons in the workplace. As you already know, we have raised other safety issues with you at recent L-M meetings, and we await resolution to those issues too.
President, USW Local 8888
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