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

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

PETITIONING AT THE POLLS

I spent two hours this morning gathering petition signatures at the voting polls here in Bath.  We have a petition calling on the City of Bath to reject the upcoming request from Bath Iron Works (BIW) for another round of tax breaks for their shipyard expansion. (BIW builds Navy Aegis destroyers which are outfitted with 'missile defense' systems and are being used to surround Russia and China.)  BIW is owned by General Dynamics whose top Chief Executive Officer (CEO) last year made $18 million in compensation.  The municipal budget of our city is less than $15 million a year.

Since 1999 BIW has received $197 million in state and local tax breaks for their expansion and mechanization of operations.  During that same period of time BIW has laid off 2,000 workers.  Since 1999 property taxes in Bath have risen by 25%.  So it's more than obvious that the tax payers of Bath are subsidizing BIW's ability to reduce their work force.  On top of all that only 500 of the current 5,500 workers at BIW live in Bath.

During my time at the polls this morning I got about 70 signatures from local residents.  I asked the City Clerk how many voters she expected today and she said if we are lucky we will get about 300.  She told me that prior to today 450 people had voted absentee ballot.  So if that holds true that only 300 or so show up at the polls then we are going to get a sizeable percentage of those voters signing our petition.

I was pleasantly surprised how open people were.  I didn't have to use the words "corporate welfare" to describe the BIW tax break request.  Several voters used the words before I could open my mouth.  One man signed the petition and told me, "I work at BIW but oppose this tax break." 

We have seven different people staffing our petition table today which indicates that there is growing concern in the community about this issue.  One of our volunteers told me this morning that he had sent an email to all city councilors and one of them had responded to him with these words:  "I am getting more calls about this issue than practically any other thing before."  Bingo.

I go back to do the last hour tonight from 7-8 pm.  It will be exciting to see how many signatures we get.  Even many of those who refuse to sign the petition are taking our information leaflet.  Our day of working the polls in Bath is going to ensure that this corporate tax break issue will be reverberating across the community.

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