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.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Day 3: BIW with members of the band

Fifteen folks turned out today at noon at Bath Iron Works (BIW) across from the administration building.  This was the Ash Wednesday vigil that has been organized here for many years by the Smilin' Trees Disarmament Farm from Hope, Maine.  They are a Catholic Worker community that will also sponsor the Lenten vigils, held every Saturday from February 17 to March 31.  We'll always gather at the same spot on Washington Street from 11:30 am to 12:30.

At the end of each of these vigils we also have a closing circle to share our concerns about others who are not with us or who suffer around the world from the affects of war.

Today after most folks had left five of us remained and were talking.  BIW V-P John Fitzgerald, point man for the General Dynamics request for the increasingly controversial $60 million in corporate welfare, was entering the building and stopped to talk with us.  We had a friendly and frank discussion with him on the steps of the administration building.

During that discussion we talked some about the vision (and true difficulties) of converting BIW (and the entire military industrial complex) to sustainable and needed products and technologies.  Fitzgerald's primary goal is to keep the money flowing that will employee over 5,000 workers at the shipyard.

We reminded him that we didn't want to close the yard down.  When we protest at BIW we are not against the workers.  We are for conversion.

Back at 3:30 today for the shift change - massive traffic jam happens so the workers get a good look at my sign.  So far in three days I've handed out 40 flyers.  Three Op-eds and letters in two different papers today - Bangor Daily News and Times Record in Brunswick. Keep the letters coming please, they are having impact.  I called the Taxation Committee in Augusta today and there is no word on when the next Work Session of the committee will be held.  Likely won't get much warning.  We understand there is alot of talk in the hallways of the state capital about all of this.

Admittedly BIW about 7 years ago tried to link up with a Norwegian company that builds offshore wind turbines.  That would have created a process of diversification that we were very happy to hear about at the time.  Our current right-wing Gov. LePage killed the deal.

I told Fitzgerald that our strategy was two-fold:

  1. We have been working for years to get the public to understand that unless we convert the military machine (and much else of fossil fuel dependent America) then our hopes to offer a real chance of survival to the future generations will be dead in the water due to the coming ravages of climate change.  We need the public to demand a change now.
  2. Once this demand builds within the public consciousness we need to then increase our work on Congress to get them to support this life saving change in our industrial system.
But unless we do #1 above then the chances for #2 will never happen.  We each should work in our bio-region to bring these changes forward.  BIW happens to be in my bio region.  (See the local PeaceWorks bi-weekly Op-Ed in our paper today here.)

It is a tough fight - one of the hardest to imagine - and it can be a lonely climb sometimes.  But right now we've got a very powerful band playing this tune all across the state of Maine.  This is what it takes.

We are fighting for all the children - even the kids of those who work at BIW. 



Anonymous Robert said...

With this people concern to others especially those who are not to them but also who suffer form the effects of war. it's awesome, having because of concerning others. hope to see this concern to the government.

2/14/18, 9:53 PM  
Blogger Anonymous said...

Thanks Bruce -- and all! Curious if there has been any discussion with Mr. Fitzgerald directly questioning the hypocrisy associated with this incredible corporate welfare ask. I'm not anticipating that he's going to say, 'Oh yea -- you're right..." -- but I am curious as to how he justifies it, particularly in light of the competing needs for $60 million in Maine (Medicaid expansion, MDOT ask for infrastructure improvements, preparing or and adapting to climate change, etc.).

2/15/18, 8:39 AM  
Blogger Bruce K. Gagnon said...

He says BIW is on its own - that the parent GD does not bail them out and they have to compete with a shipyard in Mississippi that gets subsidies from their state. He declines to discuss the wealth of GD. When I worked for the United Farm Workers Union in Florida I was on the contract negotiation team (note taker) between the union and Minute Maid orange juice who the UFW had a contract with. At the negotiations a team of hot shot lawyers flew in from Coca Cola in Atlanta (which owns Minute Maid) and they used to say the same thing - that Minute Maid was on its own. I didn't buy that line then and don't buy it now. $60 mil from Maine won't make a big difference in BIW or GD's bottom line when they are building multi-billion war ships.

2/15/18, 10:03 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

If conversion is easy, than start your own company next to BIW, pay higher wages and solicit their workers. When they can no longer hire anyone because you pay more then they will close and your goal will be achieved.

2/15/18, 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Bob k said...

Silly on the “start your own company...”; obviously that level of investment is beyond the means of an individual— and that level of “commentary” is meaningless.

2/15/18, 7:20 PM  

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