There was another of the Advent Bath Iron Works vigils today here in town. Twenty of us were out there for an hour as weekend shift workers left the plant. BIW worker Peter Woodruff was with us again holding a big sign that read "Onshore Jobs from Offshore Wind" and had some nice photos on it of huge wind turbines planted in the ocean.
A worker was walking down the other side of the street and I saw him yell over to Peter -something about the ships we make here protect your right to protest. I heard Peter answer, "I've been working here for 30 years." The guy on the other side of the street was stunned, took a second, and incredulously replied, "What are you doing?"
He couldn't understand why any worker would be outside BIW calling for the company to build wind turbines. In his mind BIW builds warships and that is all there is to it.
But Peter understands that our country can't afford to keep sinking massive amounts of money, that we are essentially borrowing from China, into building more Navy destroyers and then parking them off the coast of China. At some point very soon China is likely to pull the plug on this deal. Then what happens to BIW and the thousands of jobs there?
What happens to BIW when in the midst of this economic collapse Congress is forced to dramatically cut the military budget?
Wouldn't it make more sense to begin planning for conversion of the military industrial complex now? Wouldn't workers, who stand to lose their pay checks, and local towns like Bath which stand to lose their primary employment base be wise to begin talking about and planning for conversion of these facilities now? Shouldn't everyone be calling on our elected officials to begin lobbying hard for funds to convert from military production to building solar, wind turbines, and rail systems?
Who ever thought that the Navy base in nearby Brunswick would be closing in 2011 as is now the case? The community is scrambling to come up with a plan to replace the thousands of jobs that are gone because of the base closing.
America has a long legacy of ghost towns. If BIW closes, and there is nothing to replace the jobs, then this town dies a slow death.
My question to the workers at BIW, and the leaders in Bath, is what are you doing? Why are you not planning for conversion now?
Your golden goose can't lay these eggs much longer.