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: Brunswick, ME, United States

The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. @BruceKGagnon

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Day 6: Maine can't afford to give $30 million to GD/BIW either!

Here are a few thoughts I have about the amendments offered to LD 1781 by Rep. Jennifer DeChant (written by BIW and lawyers at Preti Flaherty):

  • The amended bill would reduce the subsidy amount from Maine from $60 mil to $30 mil over 10 years.  But the kicker is that BIW/GD would then renew for another $30 mil for a 2nd 10-year period.  So it’s just an accounting trick to still give the same $60 mil over 20 years.  Do they think we are that stupid?  Answer is yes they do.
  • Don’t give them $30 million either – Maine can’t afford $30 mil anymore than it could afford $60 mil.  Listen to the people – we are being squeezed from every end. 
  • GD pays state taxes for BIW.  They add the tax amount to their contract with the Navy reimbursing those costs.  It’s a racket.
  • GD still refuses to show the real need – they’ve been asked by members of the Taxation Committee to go into closed-door confidential session and look at the books.  BIW/GD refuses.  Who needs this money more – 43,000 children living in poverty in Maine or GD?
  • Adding requirements for end of year reports to the state?  A nice touch to the bill, would be nice if BIW had been willing to disclose how money was spent and how many jobs were created in the years since 1997 – but they were not.  And the state does not have a functioning program to thoroughly review and contest BIW’s annual reports.  It is a sham and a sop to ‘compromise’.
My recommendation is to continue to oppose the bill.  Stay the course – full speed ahead to defeat LD 1781.  Keep the letters to local papers going.  As best I can tell so far we’ve had opposing views aired at least 63 times in 20 different Maine media outlets since this campaign began.

My hunger strike enters Day 6 and we had the first Lenten vigil for disarmament at BIW this morning.  The vigils will continue every Saturday through March 31, for an hour starting at 11:30 am.

We will be at the next Taxation Committee Work Session at the State House (room 127) in Augusta on February 22 at 1:00 pm.

Happy Chinese New Year to all.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Day 5: Words from some workers at BIW

It was a dreary day weather wise at BIW during the noon hour but the action was swift, furious and very exciting.

I was joined by Blob Klotz from South Portland (along with his dog who had a sign on reading 'Dogs against corporate welfare!).  Bob is a leading climate change activist in the state with 350 Maine.

We walked down toward the south end of the shipyard where the Navy crews are HQed.  Once the ships are near complete they come to start to learn how to operate them.  So in addition to BIW workers we were able to hand out flyers and talk with the sailors.

Best of all were conversations I had with three BIW workers.  One told me, "Friggin GD don't need no more damn money."  A woman said, "I'm with you.  Fuck GD."

The most interesting of all was my conversation with a worker who told me not to continue with the hunger strike.  Nodding his head toward the river he said, "Don't hurt yourself. They ain't worth it man.  You would not believe all of the waste and fraud going on in there."  I asked him to define the word 'fraud'.  He replied, "Getting paid for doing the same thing twice.  I see all kinds of shit."

The author of LD 1781 is Rep. Jennifer DeChant (D-Bath) and today several papers across Maine ran an Op-Ed she wrote trying to sell her amended corporate welfare bill.  Responding to obvious and growing opposition, she offers a compromise of $30 million instead of $60 million for the mega-weapons corporation in 10 years rather than 20.  But the kicker is that at the end of 10 years General Dynamics could come back in and ask for a renewal.  By then most of us will be dead and gone.

We should be confident that our opposition is indeed being felt in the halls of the state capital in Augusta.  Now is not the time to relax.  Now is the time to step up our calls and emails to our local legislators and tell them - NO $$$$ for General Dynamics.  They don't need it but the state of Maine surely does.

You can contact your Maine state legislators by clicking here

Don't wait - do it today.


Why couldn't we do this at Bath Iron Works?

The Gulf of Maine has the most wind in the U.S.

Instead of endless war, which is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases and climate change, we could be doing something else and still create jobs for Maine workers.  But we must collectively demand this change.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

A short film about a Global Network protest

The Poster, a short film created by W. B. Park for the Global Network in 2000.  He put out word in a Central Florida magazine for professional actors and film people who would volunteer to make this short film.

Will is a great artist who illustrated the work of the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice when I worked there (1983-1998) and the Global Network since the mid-1980's.  In our latest Space Alert newspaper he has two illustrations.

Enjoy this short film about a woman who gets a flyer about a protest at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and decides she wants to make a poster and come along.


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.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Message from the street in Bath

Thanks to Regis Tremblay....

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. 


Pentagon: 'We've got to ramp it up'

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Hunger Strike Day 2: What are our priorities?

I was back out at BIW today at noon and again at 3:30 pm.  Some of the workers are now beginning to joke with me about being hungry so I replied, "Yeah I am hungry for justice.  I'm hungry for some solidarity."

At 4:30 filmmaker Regis Trembly and I were on WERU alternative radio (north of here) for half an hour.  Amy Browne began her show with some of the audio that Regis captured during the recent Taxation Committee Public Hearing on LD 1781 - the bill to give General Dynamics $60 million in corporate welfare.  She played 30 minutes of that and then had Regis and I give updates on everything including my hunger strike.

Its very exciting to see that virtually everyday there are at least one or more Letters to Editor or Op-Eds in some Maine newspaper.  Today there was one in the Portland Press Herald and in the Brunswick Times Record.  So folks are doing a great job of keeping the message in front of the public.  You can't expect people to do something about this potential waste of state resources unless they know about it.  So far there have been more than 40 letters printed in 16 papers across the state.

I'll be back out at BIW tomorrow at noon and 3:30.  I am drinking lots of water with a bit of lemon juice.  I felt serene during most of the day.  I've done two 14-day hunger strikes before in solidarity with others so I have a good idea what to expect.  I've put no time limit on this one - it all really depends on the status of LD 1781 and how the public opposition is building.  So I am keeping an open mind.

Thanks to all who are doing things to help.  I know that VFP member Don Kimball down in Portland is talking about the corporate welfare bill tonight on his radio show on WMPG.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Day 1 updates from Bath

  • The first day of the hunger strike and vigil at BIW went quite well.  Mary Beth, Peter Morgan and Jason Rawn joined the vigil so we were able to cover two key places along Washington Street.  It was cold out there - and always more wind down along the river.
  • We were there at noon and then again during shift change at 3:30 pm.  When they blow the whistle at 3:30 guys come rushing out and I stood in the middle of the parking lot entrance and offered flyers.  One guy walked by me real close and half-whispered, "I agree with you." We handed out about 20 flyers which ain't bad on the first day out.  There is alot of peer pressure not to take a flyer.
  • The first thing I did when I arrived at the shipyard (where destroyers are built for the Navy and are outfitted with 'missile defense' systems being used to encircle China and Russia) was to go to the Machinists Union Hall and handed two flyers to a couple of guys sitting in a meeting.  I told them what I was doing and that the protest was not aimed at them.  I explained it was about the General Dynamics (GD) demand for $60 million from our cash-strapped state.  Before I could finish the sentence one of them reached across his desk and held up a copy of The Bollard with its front page story entitled Ship of Fools: Tax Breaks for BIW, World War III for us.  That pretty much said it all.
  • The Bollard is a very popular free monthly arts, culture and politics magazine out of Portland.  Chris Busby is the editor and while standing at the shipyard during the noon hour he came and snapped the photo above.  He told us that he does not usually do updates on stories in between issues but this time he was going to because he's been finding so much interest in the story.  You can see his update, posted today, here.
  • Busby also told us about a poll he ran across at the Maine Biz (a business paper) web site that asked readers their opinion on GD's $60 million.  Those opposed to LD 1781 in Augusta came out on top at 55%.  Not bad from a business friendly audience.
  • Another exciting thing today was an email from a woman I don't know from Bridgton, Maine who just had a letter published in her local paper opposing corporate welfare for GD.  Bridgton is way out in western Maine where we have no contacts so I take this as a good sign that word is spreading.  We need more of that if we hope to help the people of Maine save $60 million from a hugely wealthy corporation that cares nothing about our poor state.
  • One last bit of news today about GD.  It was announced by Reuters news service that "U.S. defense contractor General Dynamics Corp said on Monday it would buy CSRA Inc, a smaller provider of government services for about $6.8 billion, to expand the services it offers to the U.S. Department of Defense."  Lots of extra cash laying around there at GD HQ.....they don't need $60 million from Maine.
  • Give us some help please.

Message from Okinawa peace leader - please sign the petition

Hirosi leading the singing outside US Marine base Camp Schwab in Okinawa where a 13-year daily protest continues against base expansion that will destroy pristine Oura Bay

Dear Members of the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases,

I am Hiroji Yamashiro, the Chairman of the Okinawa Peace Action Center.  As a result of my involvement in the protest movement opposing new U.S. military base construction in Henoko and Takae in Okinawa, I was arrested and detained by the Japanese police and am in the middle of a legal battle right now. 

On February 6, the two major local newspapers in Okinawa published substantial articles reporting that the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases launched an international e-petition campaign demanding that all charges against me and my 2 co-defendants be dropped and that all U.S. military bases be removed from Okinawa. I heard that even in the Tokyo metropolitan area, a few national newspapers including Tokyo Shimbun provided similar coverage. I feel deeply delighted and encouraged to read that people from more than 20 countries around the world have already signed the petition (within the only first 1 or 2 days) and that the Coalition continues to be energetically involved in this campaign. I am sorry for not being able to write this sooner but I would like to express my heart-felt appreciation. At the same time, I would like to let you know that your powerful support reaffirmed my determination to keep fighting through the trial with dignity. I thank you so very much. 

I do believe that this petition will put huge pressure on the Japanese government authorities, including prosecutors and the Department of Defense, who are eager to set me up as a wicked criminal. Although the Japanese government would not listen to domestic public opinion at all, we know that they are standing in a vulnerable position where they cannot ignore and refuse to react against international public opinion. It is a well known fact that supporting actions by international human rights organizations, including IMADR (International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism) and Amnesty International, served as the inciting cause of a reconsideration by the prosecutors and Japanese government authorities, who had refused the defense counsel’s demand for our release over and over again. I have no doubt that your international move initiating this e-petition will have a powerful effect on the Japanese prosecutors and authorities, and they will learn they cannot do whatever they like. I thank you very much again for this. 

I also express my deepest appreciation to the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases for the invitation to participate in your first-ever conference which was held in Baltimore on January 12th.  Although I was extremely delighted by your invitation, unfortunately I could not visit Baltimore, as I was already booked for a talk event in Tokyo on that day, in addition to some other complexities. However, through the newspaper reports, I learned that my video message for people in America, which was shot in front of the Kadena Air Force Base gate, was screened at the conference, and that the audience’s warm reaction to the video led to the e-petition campaign. I must say, I was very impressed with the way that the video came out.  I only can imagine that the video shooting and editing, including adding English subtitles, was not a simple job, and I am very grateful to everyone who was involved in the video filming and producing. I will also never forget the moment when I met face-to-face with the members of Veterans for Peace and exchanged our passions. I am certain that the creative production skill of the VFP members in addition to the organizational involvement of VFP made the video come out as a lively and impressive work.

Finally, I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to everyone in the U.S. who has encouraged me with his or her support. I hope that we will win a victory on the trial and that our protest movements will work closely together going forward.

Hiroji Yamashiro February 8, 2018

~ You can sign the petition here

Hunger Strike Day 1: Messages from the band

  • As a sign of solidarity with those in need across our state, I will fast 2 days a week, on Mondays and Fridays, during the Hunger Strike you are undertaking.  I will also offer up my Lenten observances for the cause of stopping  LD 1781.     ~ Connie Jenkins, Orono, Maine

  • I choose to be in the trumpet section!  ~ Patricia (Pasha) Warren Huntington, Bath, Maine

  • I'll fast on the 12th with you. Good luck with it!   ~ Don Kimball, South Portland, Maine

  • I wish I was living closer to Bath so I could join you in your BIW vigil/flyering. Having been sick for so much of the last few months, since returning from Okinawa, I need to try to regain some strength in my immune system, so I can’t join you for the entire time of your open-ended hunger strike, but I will be joining you for a part of it. In Solidarity.   ~ Russell Wray, Hancock, Maine

  • I like the pan-pipes!  ~ Eric Herter, Brunswick, Maine

  • We admire you but we are a little worried at this news. I think turning your anger and frustration to fuel a hunger strike will inspire others.   ~ Lisa Savage, Solon, Maine

  • I wish Bruce the best with his hunger strike. I hope he has some advice as to how to do such a strike. Keep me up to date. The Smedleys [VFP chapter in Boston] have a meeting on Monday. I will let them know.  ~ Pat Scanlon, Andover, Massachusetts

  • Thank you, Bruce  ~ Alice Bolstridge, Presque Isle, Maine

  • I’m definitely a big drum guy. Or guitar. Or harmonica!  ~ Bob Klotz, South Portland, Maine

  • I also wish you strength and good health in the hunger strike.  ~ Lorry Fleming, Bath, Maine

  • I will commit to a modified fast and will be standing next to you in spirit.  ~ Christine DeTroy, Brunswick, Maine
  • Thank you for your amazing steady work.  ~ Nick Baker, Veazie, Maine
  • Any help you need with signage let me know.   ~ Brown Lethem, Bath, Maine

  • I have contacted both my Senator (R) and Representative (D) a couple of times about this disgraceful bill. Thanks for keeping me and others in the loop. I'll be with you in spirit outside BIW.  ~ Peter Garrett, Winslow, Maine

  • Where is our solidarity?  That's an excellent question.  I find it difficult to get a response to a basic hello.  Anything more sophisticated than that….????  ~ Joe Ciarrocca, Brunswick, Maine

  • I'll pile on soon. Our next-door neighbor, a vigorous widow, is talking up the matter with her circle -- I'll urge her to write a letter to editor also. Fortunately, our legislator is firmly opposed to the bill.  ~ John Peck, Brunswick, Maine

  • With you Bro! [and he shaved his head in solidarity]  ~ Regis Tremblay, Brunswick, Maine

  • I will be returning to live in the US with my family later this year and hope to join you someday soon on the street.  ~ Jason Von Meding, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia

  • BIW must be very worried about your "one man band", Bruce but you and I both know there are a lot more members to your group. Make 'em dance!  ~ Joyce Katzberg, Warren, Rhode Island

  • I agree 100% will do my best to contact my representatives.  ~ David Fortier, Biddeford, Maine

  • A man with justice on his mind.  ~ Mark Roman, Solon, Maine

  • Maybe those workers who walk right past you will be deeply affected by your action (reminds me of something at some US Airbase some time ago...). Take care of yourself, keep warm, please stay solid in your solidarity.  ~ Jill Gough, Ceredigion, Wales
  •  Best wishes for the hunger strike - take care of yourself, thinking of you!  ~ Dave Webb, Leeds, England

Sunday, February 11, 2018

'That is true freedom'....

Sunday Song