CREATING THE CONVERSION PROCESS
Six folks turned up at various times yesterday during our 90 minute vigil at Bath Iron Works. We were there when the afternoon shift knocked off and the evening shift began so we saw lots of workers drive by.
Our message was primarily about building something different at the shipyard. BIW has been there more than 100 years and the city's whole identity is wrapped up in shipbuilding so its a hard sell. But what we have heard from conversations with workers over the years is that as long as they have a job they wouldn't mind building rail systems or wind turbines.
The union though has got to come on board to help make that happen. In the state of Connecticut the legislature passed a bill to create an economic conversion planning commission in their last session. The Machinist union (IAM) strongly supported the bill understanding that there are going to be continuous cuts in military spending. The public is tired of endless war and we can't afford it. Getting ahead of the curve is a good idea.
So we recently had the Connecticut IAM resolution endorsing their conversion commission copied and hand-delivered to the IAM union president in Bath.
In addition BIW management needs to buy into the idea of conversion planning. And the city of Bath needs to make such a commitment as well. Ideally we'd see the city create a local commission and then we'd get the state to follow suit.
In the end none of this will happen unless the public demands that the political class begin the process of converting the war machine to sustainable production. So as activists we have to be working several levels at once: continually promoting this alternative vision; educating the public about the increased jobs we'd get by converting; bringing unions and management along; and getting local and state governments to take the issue seriously. It's a big job and all hands on deck will be required.