Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

DEMANDING CONVERSION AT BIW

On May 7 another Aegis destroyer will be "christened" at Bath Iron Works and a protest will be held beginning at 10:00 am


Today was the 6th weekly vigil at Bath Iron Works (BIW) here in Maine during the Lenten season. Organized by the Smiling Trees Disarmament Farm, these weekly vigils have been a mainstay outside the Navy ship yard for many years.

Since our house is so close it is one of the few protests we can actually walk to - a very nice thing for us.

I held a sign today that has a train painted on it by an artist friend and reads "Built in Bath" across the top. As the Saturday shift workers drove by at noon it was clear that many of them understood the message - and many of them agree - that something different could and should be produced at BIW. There is growing support amongst the workers to consider the idea of conversion. But in order to make it happen the workers inside these military production facilities are going to have to become more vocal.

These Aegis destroyers, with so-called "missile defense" systems on-board, are keys to the aggressive Pentagon military strategy that calls for deployments around Russia and China's borders in order to neutralize their nuclear retaliatory forces.

The hard fought struggle now going on at Jeju Island in South Korea against the construction of a Navy base is linked to these Aegis destroyers as the Navy needs more ports of call for the ever-expanding fleet of these ships.

The next "christening" of an Aegis at BIW will be on Saturday, May 7 so we will once again put out the call for peace activists to join us there for a protest of these war ships. Many of Maine's leading politicians, including our new Republican governor, will be on-hand for the event. We will gather at 8:30-10:00 am in order to be there as the thousands of people file into the ship yard to watch the ceremony. We'll hook up a portable sound system and hear speeches from representatives of many peace groups in the state. After it is over we'll hold a pot luck lunch at the Addams-Melman House in Bath.

We'll be talking alot that day about jobs. Studies show that spending $1 billion on military production creates 8,555 jobs. But if that same $1 billion was invested in building rail systems at places like BIW we'd get 19,795 jobs. That's a huge difference and you'd think that the media, unions, politicians, and the public would be all over this little known bit of good news.

People are clamoring for jobs these days. Corporations, despite huge tax cuts, are not investing here in the U.S. because they are attracted to cheaper labor overseas. So if we want more jobs in this country we've got to take our federal tax dollars, that are presently being pissed down the rat hole, and invest them in building rail systems, wind turbines, solar systems back here at home.

This won't happen though unless we demand it and we must do it repeatedly. We'll have another opportunity to do so at BIW on May 7.

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