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.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Day 4: Good reception at the shipyard

             Some of the folks who gathered in front of BIW administration building yesterday during noon time


I went down to the shipyard today from noon to 1:00 pm and stood by a walk way that workers use to cross the street to go downtown to buy their lunches.  It was a great spot as well over 100 men and women passed me by.  I handed out 17 flyers which was quite good.

Three people stopped to talk to me - one man said, "You've got more support in here than you know."  Another man joked saying he was 'worried about Phoebe' (the CEO of General Dynamics who made $21 million last year and was quoted as being 'happy' after Trump's corporate tax bill dropped GD's tax rate to 19%).  He went on to recall how in their last union contract with the company they got squeezed hard.

Quite a few folks nodded, waved or made friendly eye contact unlike some who avoided looking at me at all.  One young woman, walking along with several other workers, reached out and took a flyer saying, "Give me one, I don't care."  It made me wonder just what she was referring to.

Mostly I felt very good about the overall reception and I tried to say hello to everyone that walked by.  Many responded in a kind way with 'good luck' or 'take care'.  It was a very rewarding experience.

The workers at BIW are caught between a rock and a hard place.  They appreciate the good paying job - especially considering that there are few opportunities in Maine for union wages and benefits - even though some of these benefits are now being whittled away.  Many travel a long way to work - a guy yesterday at quitting time told me he comes in a van with others from Rockland - a bit more than an hour drive away each way.

But many of the workers have issues with GD - a company that does not really care about the workers or the state of Maine.  BIW is just a tool for GD's corporate profits and they could theoretically sell BIW at any point - something everyone in Maine fears.  But that is not likely to happen anytime soon as the contracts for war ships keep rolling into BIW.

The $60 million GD is requesting from Maine is peanuts to this mega-weapons corporation.  They are also hitting up Connecticut for $150 million (also chump change to them) but GD does it because they can.  The corporate ethos is to make money - any way possible.  As one worker said to me as he was walking out during the afternoon shift change, "Hey those poor executives have to eat you know."

My goal for being down at BIW everyday during this hunger strike is obviously to ensure they know about our statewide campaign to resist the GD corporate subsidy.  But I also want to put a human face on our effort and I feel that slowly each day that is happening in a good way.

Bruce

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