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

With a new administration in Washington it will be a challenge to get the 'liberals' to hold Biden-Harris to the few 'progressive promises' they made during their campaign. Biden is bringing back many of Bush & Obama's neo-cons to head his foreign policy. I'll be on this case without hesitation.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Turn over at BIW - new generation of workers


(This video recorded on October 31, 2015. The occasion was the christening of another Navy Aegis destroyer at Bath Iron Works in Maine. Thanks to Regis Tremblay for the video.)

Yesterday 14 of us gathered first in front of the BIW administration building for another of the Lenten season vigils that will continue every Saturday until April 3.  After some time there we walked single-file toward the West gate where at noon workers pour out on foot during the weekend shift change. In addition, tons of cars and big noisy pick-up trucks roll by in slow moving traffic so they are all captive to the messages on our signs and banners.

MB and I have been doing this since we moved to Maine in 2003 for Lent and Advent, and during other times of year like Keep Space Week and the protests at 'christenings' of new destroyers.  Over the years we seen big changes in the people - many of the original activists who came to these vigils have passed on.  But we've also seen a huge transition in the workers.


It used to be that the vast majority of the workers were our age - and they had largely become accustomed to our regular events at the shipyard.  But in the last two years a dramatic change has been underway.  Now most of the workers are young men and women - they have not had much experience seeing activists holding signs outside their work place.  For some of them it is a real challenge.

I change the sign I hold each time as I want to tell a story over the Lenten season vigils which last about two months. One week I held a sign that asked 'Where do these Aegis [destroyers] go?' and another time I've held the two signs (above and below) that focus on climate change.  I notice that many of the younger workers appear to understand the climate issue much better than the older guys.  Likely the young ones learned about climate crisis in their public schools. But for Mainers, BIW is one of the better paying jobs for the working class.  Over the years though I've been told by some of the younger guys that they'd rather be building commuter rail systems or offshore wind turbines.  


But some of the young folks who are just seeing us for the first time get angry.  They might come from right-wing backgrounds or just resent anyone challenging their 'new good paying job'.  Just yesterday one guy sitting in his truck was yelling at us for quite awhile. I was across the street from him but did hear the word Iraq come out of his mouth. (You know, 'kill them there so we don't have to kill them here'.) MB tried to talk with him but he was just into yelling and not real conversation.  So some of these young folks will need some time to adjust to us.

As I learned during my time at Travis AFB in California (an airlift base for the war in Vietnam) regular peace protests outside the gate at our base triggered much discussion among the GI's in the barracks, the chow hall, and on our job.  So I am quite confident that our sustained presence at BIW similarly ensures a lively discussion (and/or reflection) amongst some of the workers inside the shipyard. (I went into the Air Force as a young Republican supporter of the war and came out a peacenik - so I know people can change.)

We'll be back out there again next Saturday.



Blogger Peter said...

Some at the Lenten vigil stood with the local union on the picket line last year during their strike, some made donations to the strike relief fund.

Our message is more complex than the signs convey.

3/7/21, 7:48 PM  

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