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.

Sunday, October 06, 2013


Flowers grown at the Smilin' Trees Disarmament Farm (Hope, Maine) for everyone after the BIW vigil; photos by a BIW worker

Thirteen of us held an hour-long vigil yesterday at Bath Iron Works in Maine as the workers knocked off at noon on the Saturday shift.  We lined up in front of BIW headquarters on Washington Street with our signs and banners.  Just before the whistle blew we moved down the street and stood across from a gate where workers came through.  Two of the folks from the Smilin' Trees Disarmament Farm stood by the gate and offered flyers. 

The Keep Space for Peace Week flyer started out with the words:  "Look up tonight....As you look up, realize that space belongs to all of creation, not to the powerful, aggressive forces that seek to lace it with nuclear poison and military hardware."

The flyer concluded with a call for "healing of the wounds we have inflicted upon Mother Earth."

Some workers took the flyers but most of all I sensed a certain resignation to our message.  I mean that in the good and not so good sense.

To the good there was no real anger in the workers toward us.  I've seen that decipate over the years.  Maybe its because our message has generally become more focused on conversion.  We vigil all during Advent and Lent seasons and other special times like space week.  Other times of the year I show up with flyers on important occasions.  Generally I think our message is seeping into the core of BIW workers.

On the down side the workers feel desperate.  They'd rather make rail systems or wind turbines but they are locked in.  Working at BIW is one of the best paying jobs in the state although there is a price to pay as the workers have to deal with the greedy and authoritarian General Dynamics Corp. which owns BIW.  The remaining significant challenge is for us to get BIW workers, and their union, to expand their vision and realize that it is imperative that they begin to also lobby for conversion.

The military industrial complex is unsustainable either economically or environmentally.  If the city of Bath hopes to keep jobs in this community the leadership of the community must also begin to understand and advocate for this transformation of the "product" of the city.

Those last two points are the hard pulling I am now diving into but they are necessary and because they are local there is significantly better chances of some impact.

Last night I met MB in Portland as we attended fundraiser for children in Gaza put on by MECA.  When I came in the door I saw a guy that works at BIW who I've only recently met.  I told him that I shared his suggestion at the city council meeting last Wednesday.  In that public workshop, about the corporate tax break BIW is requesting for the next 25 years, I  said, "Our city should request that General Dynamics open their books for public scrutiny if they want to claim they need more corporate welfare." I told the worker that I heard that BIW's lead council was standing by the door and was not happy with the idea.  My new friend laughed like hell and said he'd pass on the story at work.

Stop what's that sound....everybody look what's going round......


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