Bruce Gagnon's 38 Day Hunger Strike Protest

From: Bruce Gagnon's Blog

February 12 - March 21 2018


Thursday, 9 February 2018
Maine Taxation Committee Work Session reveals General Dynamics control of state

Rep. Jennifer DeChant (D-Bath), along with a coterie of other Democrat legislators and BIW executives, appeared before the Taxation Committee today with her ‘amendments’ to LD 1781 – the bill to give General Dynamics $60 million in corporate welfare over the next 20 years.

Earlier in the day I had received an email from a fellow Bath resident that had originated from Rep. DeChant in response to my friend’s request that she not vote in favor of the controversial bill.  In the email DeChant told my friend: “I will recommend changing the amount for half in half the time and require review (of data collected) before renewing it again.”

Rep. DeChant’s amendments called for ‘improvements in BIW reporting’ on how they spend the proposed funds from the state.  During the previous $200 million tax credit that BIW/GD got back in 1997 there was no reporting by the company on how they spent the funds or how many workers were hired.

The committee had some questions like the one from Rep. Denise Teplar (D-Topsham) who asked, “What is the state’s interest in providing a 90% tax credit in years when jobs are reduced?”

The best exchanges of the day though were between BIW V-P John Fitzgerald and a couple committee members.

Rep. Ryan Tipping (D-Bangor) asked, “Is this credit going to make a difference?  Is there a smaller amount the state can invest? Can we audit BIW’s books?”

Fitzgerald responded to Rep. Tipping, “It would be a challenge to answer that question.  What would you ask the auditor to find?”

Sen. Justin Chenette (D-Saco) then asked, “I’m not understanding why the investment of $60 million can’t come from your parent company?  In order for me to make decisions I need a commitment from you [BIW] to disclose the profits of the company.”

Fitzgerald responded emphatically:  “The answer is no.”

At one point during the meeting Fitzgerald cried out, “For us to be punished because our owner has capital seems unjust!”

DeChant’s amendment to “changing the amount for half in half the time” is actually no more than a legislative smoke and mirrors gambit.  In the end the amendment calls for BIW to spend $100 million per year in ‘qualified investments’ and if done, then after the first 10 years the second round of $30 million more in corporate subsidies would automatically kick-in for the next 10 years.  So in the end GD would still get their $60 million.

In the amended bill ‘qualified investments’ is defined as virtually any cost that BIW has except for salaries or other compensation paid to employees.  So all other expenses on Aegis destroyers that cost $1.5 billion each and Zumwalt destroyers that cost between $4-7 billion each would count toward the required annual BIW investment of $100 million per year.  Easy as pie – no tough nut to crack there.

Recognizing that BIW is currently building two Zumwalt and four Aegis destroyers with at least 1-2 being ‘christened’ per year there is virtually no way in the world that BIW/GD would not meet those meager criteria to qualify for state support.  Under questioning Fitzgerald admitted that currently GD is bidding on 10 more destroyers and anticipates likely getting half of those contracts from the Navy.

Training of a new generation of BIW workers is still GD’s key talking point to sell the bill even though their Navy contracts include funds for all their costs – including training and reimbursement for their taxes to the state of Maine.

Currently BIW is receiving an $81 million property-tax break from the City of Bath that runs out in 2022.  In addition BIW got another $3.7 million from Bath in 2013.

Fitzgerald reluctantly admitted that BIW/GD also receive an unknown about of money via Maine’s Pine Tree Development Zone program.  The Press Herald reported late last year that “BIW is a participant in the Pine Tree Zone program and believes it has been an important incentive for businesses to locate in Maine or stay here while continuing to invest in operations that provide jobs and economic activity,” Fitzgerald wrote.  The amount that any individual company benefits from the program is usually not disclosed under state laws that protect the confidentiality of tax returns and shield proprietary information from competitors.

In the end the Taxation Committee tabled LD 1781 but it appears that most members of the committee are prepared to support the bill once all the new amendments are fully added and understood by those on the committee.

It is ever more clear to me that GD not only runs Bath but also runs the State of Maine – as any colonizer controls the land and people where they have set up operations.

It will be up to the people of Maine to wrest back control of its own state treasury from this mega-corporation that bought back $12.9 billion of its own stocks between 2009-2016.

We’ll let you know when the next Taxation Committee Work Session will be held.  Despite what some might want you to think this show ain’t yet over.

Where is our solidarity?

General Dynamics is asking the Maine legislature for $60 million in corporate welfare. It’s top CEO made $21 million last year and they have so much cash on hand that between 2009-2017 GD bought back $14.4 billion of their own stocks driving up market share.

There are now 43,000 kids living in poverty in Maine. There is no money to fix pot hole filled roads and our bridges are deemed ‘deficient’ by DOT. Thousands in Maine have no health care. In rural Maine hospitals, schools and factories are closing. What could Maine do with $60 million that GD does not really need?

I learned about solidarity as a union organizer with the United Farm Workers Union. In the spirit of solidarity with those in need across Maine I will be doing an open-ended hunger strike starting February 12 to try to stop LD 1781 in Augusta. I will stand in front of BIW at noon and 3:30 pm each work day during the hunger strike with a sign and hand out flyers to the workers.


Tuesday, 12 February 2018
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


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.

Wednesday, 13 February 2018
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.


Wednesday, 14 February 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.



Thursday, 15 February 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.



Friday, 16 February 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.



Saturday, 17 February 2018

Day 6: Maine can't afford to give 430 million to GD/BIW either!
 

Stop Corporate Welfare  at Bath Ironworks

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.



Sunday, 18 February 2018
Day 7: Update video by Regis Tremblay

Thanks Regis and all the peeps out there working to save Mainers $60 million.

You can reach your Maine member of the state legislature here 

Please sign the petition that Bob Klotz from South Portland has started to oppose GD corporate welfare in Maine

https://petitions.moveon.org/sign/no-to-corporate-welfare.fb49?source=c.fb&r_by=175166

The Legislature, GD/BIW Need to Wake Up — Maine People Are Not Stupid


By Orlando E. Delogu
http://www.theforecaster.net/policy-wonk-10-reasons-why-biw-tax-break-is-a-bad-deal/

Most Maine people know that GD/BIW does not need another $60 million dollars of taxpayer’s money to keep the doors open.  They are scamming the Legislature and the public with veiled threats of closure and job loss if this subsidy is not provided. In fact GD/BIW is one of the wealthiest corporations in America. 

Here are 10 reasons all of which suggest that this latest round of corporate welfare is unwarranted. Badgering the state for another $60 million is an abuse of corporate power; giving in to this demand is legislative dereliction of duty—a duty owed to Maine taxpayers.

  1. Past and ongoing state tax subsidies to GD/BIW total more than $220 million. Maine taxpayers have already done enough for this corporate entity.
     

  2. GD/BIW (on the Fortune 500 list) is the 90th largest corporation in the nation. In FY 2017 alone GD/BIW generated $31 Billion in revenues (five times Maine’s annual budget) and $3 Billion in profits. This rate of profitability goes back over a decade. Given this level of wealth, squeezing Maine for another $60 million cannot be justified on economic grounds.
     

  3. The CEO of GD/BIW is paid $21 million annually; four other employees in the corporate hierarchy annually earn a combined total of $20 million. At public hearings on LD 1781, BIW’s corporate leadership refused to disclose their levels of annual compensation—but they had no qualms asking Maine for $60 million scarce tax dollars.
     

  4. Beyond enriching management, the extraordinary level of GD/BIW profitability has in recent years allowed $12.9 Billion to be returned to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks.  They currently have $2.7 Billion of cash on hand.  The assertion that they need another $60 million from Maine taxpayers is ludicrous.
     

  5. The claim that GD/BIW is in competition with the Ingalls yard in Mississippi for navy contracts is also ludicrous.  Both yards make this argument in their respective states in order to extort legislative subsidies; these subsidies inflate corporate profits at the expense of taxpayers.  The fact is the navy, for strategic purposes, needs/wants both of these yards to succeed.  For decades it has almost evenly divided shipbuilding contracts between these two yards and it builds into ship contracts both worker training programs and generous profit margins.
     

  6. The veiled threat that the failure to grant the requested $60 million will cause GD/BIW to rethink its presence in Maine is pure posturing.  Recently six vessels were simultaneously under various phases of construction; BIW has a nearly ten-year backlog of work; they have over $500 million dollars invested in the present plant, and a trained workforce in place. No corporate entity in their right mind walks away from a profit-making engine of this size and continuing potential.
     

  7. The recently passed GOP tax bill reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% pours even more money into GD/BIW’s retained earnings—but they still want $60 million from Maine taxpayers.
     

  8. The recently passed budget bill staving off a government shutdown removed long-standing caps on defense spending. The President/Congress is committed to raising this spending sharply. Given events in Southeast Asia navy procurement of next-generation vessels will certainly increase. BIW will get its share of this spending; it does not need $60 million dollars from Maine taxpayers.
     

  9. To further enhance profit margins, GD/BIW recently acquired CSRA Inc., one of the largest systems research and information technology companies in the nation, for $9.6 Billion. The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security are CSRA’s biggest customers—this completed deal is further evidence that GD/BIW does not need $60 million from Maine taxpayers.
     

  10. Finally, the proposed amendment to LD 1781 breaking it into two $30 million dollar subsidies, each running 10 years, is a total sham.  LD 1781’s employment requirements are low and will be readily met. And the $100 million of so-called “new major investment” is defined so broadly that it too will be readily met in the normal course of building the ships already contracted for, or that will be contracted for, as navy defense budgets increase. The present BIW facility will not be altered significantly.

In short, Maine people understand most of the above points; so too do most members of the Legislature. We know that $60 million is “chump change” for GD/BIW—but for the people of Maine this is real money needed to address real needs outlined daily in newspapers across the state—the opioid crisis, underfunded schools, dangerous roads, funding health insurance expansion, and more. 

Maine is a poor state; the needs of its people should count for more than marginally increasing profits for one of the wealthiest corporations in America. Shame on GD/BIW for insisting on this $60 million dollar subsidy. If it capitulates to this demand, shame on the Legislature.
    
~ Orlando Delogu is emeritus professor of law at the University of Southern Maine and specializes in government relations and tax policy.  He also writes a regular column for The Forecaster.



Monday, 19 February 2018
Day 8: Democrats afraid won't be reelected if reject GD welafare bill

  • I got a call today from a friend who had spoken to one of LD 1781 sponsors - the Maine bill to give up to $60 million in corporate welfare to General Dynamics (GD).  The friend told me the politician, a Democrat, was afraid she would not be reelected if she did not support the bill.  This was the same Democrat who had tweeted against Maine Sen. Susan Collins (Republican) when she supported Trump's corporate tax bill that reduced the federal tax rate of GD to 19%.  So in this case the Democrat state senator rationalizes her way out of this moral dilemma by considering her reelection the most important issue - greater than the reality of 43,000 kids in Maine living in poverty or roads and bridges falling apart.  Why the hell sign up for the job if you are not going to vote for what is right?
     
  • I went down to the shipyard today at 3:30 pm but the place was mostly shut down due to the Presidents' Day holiday.  I'll be back there again tomorrow at 3:30 pm.  I am going to skip the noon hour vigiling that I did all last week due to my energy beginning to fade.  Today was the hardest day yet for me.  I'm not much of a nap taker normally but this afternoon I fell out for 30 minutes.
     
  • While I was down at the shipyard I did see some people.  One guy gave me the middle finger and then made a gun out of his fingers and repeatedly shot me as he drove away.  But soon after that another worker walked right up to me and I asked him if he wanted a flyer.  He eagerly took it and said he was opposed to the GD welfare bill.  He said most workers don't like GD - primarily after how they were treated in their last contract.  He said the new contract has a freeze on raises for the next four years, there were cuts in their health care and retirement packages as well as other benefits.
     
  • So we see GD squeezing the workers while at the same time increasing executive compensation packages and doing major buybacks of their own stocks.  Just last week GD spent $6.8 billion in cash to buy an IT company that does military contracting.  So GD is partly able to spend like that after they have taken money from the workers and from states like Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Kentucky where the politicians are too 'afraid' to say no.
     
  • I want to thank two folks for their extraordinary efforts in this campaign.  Mary Kate Small (Camden) has sent a letter all over Maine inviting people to join the hunger strike and she is now keeping a log.  She reports that every day is covered through March 17 with someone in Maine joining the hunger strike.  I know of at least three that were fasting in solidarity today. Quite amazing.  Also thanks to Bob Klotz (South Portland) who is a leader in the climate change group 350 Maine for his daily efforts to build this campaign.  Today he put up an online petition that you can sign here


Tuesday, 20 February 2018
Day 9: Emotion and reaction from BIW

I handed out seven flyers today at the shipyard.  It was a foggy-misty day that happens when the warm air hits the frozen ground.  A day of emotion for me.

Not so many people were grumpy with me today - I think I am wearing them down.....

The best moment of my shift change vigil came when a young worker walked up to me and said he wanted to talk.  He told me he does not want to build weapon systems for war.  We talked about conversion of the shipyard to build things that would help us deal with the coming harsh reality of climate change.  He quickly noted the mist because of the warmer temperatures - "It's not supposed to be this warm this time of year," he said.  He took my flyer and I asked him where he lives.  Bath, he replied.

A retired BIW executive had an Op-Ed posted today in a couple of the bigger Maine papers declaring his support for the $60 million gift to General Dynamics from our very poor state.

I love the response tweeted by school teacher and activist Lisa Savage (above)  to media throughout the state - right on the money as they say on Wall Street.

Word got around about the Op-Ed, written by Bill Haggett, and one long-time local activist from nearby Brunswick, Selma Sternlieb, replied on email:

Here’s my story about Bill Haggett: About 40 years ago, [now US Senator] Angus King had a program on TV in which he interviewed people. One night, when I was watching, he interviewed Bill Haggett. Angus asked him to predict the future of BIW. Haggett responded something like this: "In the worst possible scenario, peace.…"  I wrote a letter to the editor of the Times Record quoting him. He called me to say, "Mrs. Sternlieb, I am not a warmonger."  I’d like to know what else you could call him.

Also today I got a message from my good buddy in Albuquerque, N.M., Bob Anderson. Bob told me that:

I took Sally Alice Thompson (94) to the ER again today with pneumonia.  She was also there for it last month.  She is tireless, at this age and opening her house to political asylum seekers and doing demos.  The VFP chapter is named for her here.  She is like our mother.  I told her of your hunger strike and why and she said 'well I might as well join Bruce' — but she was in the ER bed trying to breathe.  I told her to get well first and then she could do a sympathy strike with you.  I think knowing what you are doing made her a little more determined to get well soon...

So my heart was touched alot today.  There is more going on than we realize across Maine.  I'm certain that GD did not want to have to engage in debate and a public defense of their corporate welfare bill.  They wanted it to slide quietly to passage without anyone knowing about it.  But now nearly two months later the bill is in amended form (still no damn good) in committee with another work session on February 22 at the capital in Augusta.  There have been more than 65 Op-Eds, letters and radio shows on 20 different Maine media outlets all critical of the bill.

As far as I know Mr. Haggett's piece today was the first we've seen speaking in favor of the corporate subsidy bill.  Likely BIW/GD determined that they needed to call on one of the old whigs to declare the virtues of the shipyard and up the fear ante about possible closure.  He knows the script quite well, they've been recycling it for years.

In the end GD is having to work pretty hard for their welfare check from Maine taxpayers.

Message from grandmother to BIW corporate welfare bill sponsor

Suzanne Hedrick is the woman in brown coat in the middle of the photo next to man in green coat.  She sent this letter today to Rep. Jennifer DeChant (D-Bath) who is the lead sponsor of LD 1781 to give BIW $60 million in corporate welfare.

Dear Ms. DeChant,

I am 86 years old and have a deep concern for children. I am a retired school teacher and am heartsick over the massacre of children at a high school in Florida.

I am also concerned by the massacre of children by US drones, bombs, and other weapons of war. You are a strong supporter of BIW which makes DESTROYERS which, in fact, destroy the lives of children in many parts of the world. As woman to woman, I must say I find it abhorrent that a woman would give whole hearted support to weapons of mass destruction such as DESTROYERS.

The name of these ships alone should convey to you just what their purpose is. We have children in Maine who go hungry every day. Many lack affordable health care and adequate housing.

A USS Zumwalt costs at least $4 billion to build. That is taxpayer money going for destruction and not for the desperate needs of people here in Maine. A lead article in today's Bangor Daily News, "Already struggling to pay minimum wage, homes for people with disabilities face cuts July 1."

Maine's tax payers should expect our legislators to work for the common good of all its people.

Building DESTROYERS and giving billion dollar weapon manufacturers millions of dollars in tax breaks hardly contributes to the common good.

Please, for once, think of the children who are targets of Maine's DESTROYERS.

Suzanne Hedrick
Nobleboro, Maine



Wednesday, 21 February 2018
Day 10: Solidarity Hunger Strikers in Maine

People across Maine and beyond are signing up to join my hunger strike opposing the General Dynamics request for $60 million from the Maine legislature.  This corporate shakedown comes from a company that paid their top CEO $21 million last year and made $3 billion in profit.

I am planning to stay on my hunger strike until the bill, LD 1781, is voted up or down at the capital in Augusta.  If anyone wishes more information about joining this hunger strike please contact Mary Kate Small at marykatespeace@yahoo.com

Thanks to everyone for their great support.  We are causing a much needed debate about corporate power all over our state which has long been a corporate colony of one form or another.

You can contact your Maine state legislator here

Solidarity hunger strikers

2/12  Bruce, Don Kimball
2/13  Bruce
2/14  Bruce, Connie Jenkins
2/15  Bruce, Connie Jenkins
2/16  Bruce, Mary Kate Small
2/17  Bruce, Mary Kate Small
2/18  Bruce
2/19  Bruce, Don Kimball, Russell Wray, Akemi
2/20  Bruce, Joseph
2/21  Bruce, Peggy Akers, Dixie Searway
2/22  Bruce, Meredith Bruskin, Peggy Akers, Cindy Piester, Ken Jones
2/23  Bruce, Connie Jenkins, Mary Beth Sullivan, Bob Klotz, Ken Jones
2/24  Bruce, Cynthia Howard, Peter Morgan, Larry Dansinger, Ken Jones
2/25  Bruce, Cynthia Howard, Ken Jones, Mary Donnelly, Mike Donnelly, Mary Beth Sullivan
2/26  Bruce, Don Kimball, Connie Jenkins, Cynthia Howard, Richard Cate, Ken Jones
2/27  Bruce, Barbara, Cynthia Howard, Ken Jones
2/28  Bruce, Cynthia Howard, Ken Jones

and on if necessary......



Thursday, 22 February 2018
Day 11: We must all lend a hand ...


Video by Regis Tremblay

General Dynamics corporate welfare bill tabled again in Augusta - temporarily


Mary Donnelly (on right) and I standing outside the Taxation Committee Work Session room before things began today in Augusta.  BIW V-P John Fitzgerald is on the far left leaning up against the wall.

The Taxation Committee today voted 8 to 4 to table the $60 million General Dynamics welfare bill again due to outstanding issues not yet clarified after Bath Iron Works V-P John Fitzgerald brought in more amended language to LD 1781.  Committee Chairman Dana Dow (R-Waldoboro) though stated that he wanted to reschedule the bill as soon as possible - likely next Tuesday.

The sponsor of the bill Rep. Jennifer DeChant (D-Bath) did not even show up for the Taxation Work Session which indicated to me that her role is essentially over.  BIW has now taken control of the bill and will be using their economic and political muscle to try to push it through the legislature - sooner rather than later.

BIW's Fitzgerald had the job today of explaining the latest changes to the committee (which is largely favorable to the bill) but most of the 12 committee members were visibly confused so they had to table the bill in order to have more time to sort things out.

Still several members of the committee raised very serious objections and concerns including those by Sen. Justin Chenette (D-Saco) who said, "We are still not being provided the full financial picture [of GD/BIW].... I'd like to request for the 5th time a clear demonstration of financial need...until that level is met I'm gonna be a no vote."

Much of the meeting was spent trying to get a handle on new language that would determine the way the corporate subsidy would be paid, new annual reporting requirements for BIW about how they spent the taxpayer funds, and definitions of things like what is a full-time worker, qualified worker, transferability of the tax subsidy if BIW was sold, and confusing concepts like acceleration and deceleration of the payment formula (depending on the amounts of workers hired at any one time) that virtually no one on the committee understood.

Rep. Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) made the remark that the confusing acceleration/deceleration clause "could be used to decrease employment due to automation" which BIW has been doing for years by 'mechanizing and modernizing' the operation.

In the end this further delay gives us more time to alert the public to this corporate give-a-way bill.  We urge everyone to re-contact your state legislative team in Augusta and let them know how you feel about LD 1781.

It is very likely that once it does pass the Taxation Committee (all the Republicans and several of the Democrats on the committee support the bill) it will surely be rushed to the floor of the State House and Senate for a vote without much, if any, public notice.

I will continue my hunger strike until the bill is voted up or down in Augusta.  Twenty folks from around the state showed up to oppose the bill and we had a chance to talk afterwards.

You can contact your legislators here

Photos by Regis Tremblay and Bob Klotz



Friday, 23 February 2018
Day 12: More letters in Maine papers and Solidarity from Jeju Island

I was back at BIW this afternoon during the 3:30 shift change along with Mary Beth who took this photo of me trying to hand workers a flyer.

We learned for certain today that the General Dynamics (GD) welfare bill will come back before the Taxation Committee in Augusta on Tuesday, February 27 at 1:00 pm.

I am planning to attend (need to work out a ride) and want to get there at 9:30 am to stand by the House and Senate chambers with my sign as members of the legislature come in for the 10:00 am sessions.  I hope to do that several times next week.

The Letters to Editor continue in papers across Maine.  There were two of them opposing LD 1781 in our local Times Record today and two of them in the Bangor Daily News.  It's quite amazing how steady they have been rolling into papers - now more than 70 letters to 20 Maine media outlets since we began this effort.


Inside of the packed Taxation Committee hearing room yesterday.

A couple of days ago I printed the letter from 86-year old Suzanne Hedrick that she wrote to the sponsor of the GD give-a-way bill.  Today Suzanne sent me another note that I must share.  She wrote:

I had another one [letter printed] in the Free Press this week. And I had a chance encounter with Sen. John Martin [conservative State Senator] and some lobbyists for BIW. I told them my thoughts about the DESTROYERS and that they kill children and told them I would be arrested  at the next "christening". Take care.

Suzanne is a long-time peace activist in Maine and still drives across the state for protests and various other events.  She is an associate member of Veterans For Peace as well.  She's one of a kind.  We all respect her so much.

Finally, as I was typing this blog post I glanced at my Facebook page and there was a lovely message from Jeju Island, South Korea with several photos of folks doing their daily protest at the new Navy base in Gangjeong village.  They had one sign offering solidarity with us here in Maine who are campaigning to stop the GD corporate welfare bill.  They understand very well what we are doing here as the warships built at BIW are being sent to the Navy base in their community.  So we thank them for their solidarity and send our best wishes back to them!



Saturday, 24 February 2018
Day 13: Which side are you on?

You pick - 43,000 kids in Maine living in poverty or more corporate welfare for a mega-rich General Dynamics - which had $3 billion in profit last year?

Who needs help the most?

Video by Regis Tremblay

A Holy Day in Bath

   

Photos by Regis Tremblay

We gathered at Bath Iron Works for the Lenten Vigil today at 11:30 am. They will be held weekly until March 31.

Bob Klotz rode his bike up from South Portland (took almost 4 hours) to join us and link his 350Maine climate change work with our efforts to help Mainers save $60 million.  Bob’s been a key force to spread the word about this effort into places where we had few real contacts.

Twenty-eight turned out for the vigil and ‘enjoyed’ the warm spring feeling – but also knew that February in Maine isn't supposed to look like mud season in April.

Our signs focused on the moral need for disarmament and the demand for conversion of the military industrial complex if we wish to actually give the future generations a chance for life.  Our signs had images of rapid transit, offshore wind turbines (the Gulf of Maine has the most wind in the US), and appeals to fix broken Maine.

People are excited about how things are going and the breadth of the letters to local papers that have been printed.  That has been surprising and most helpful.

My plan is to go back to BIW on Monday at 3:30 pm to vigil.

Then on Tuesday, Feb 27 some of us are going to the House & Senate Chambers (3rd floor) at the capital in Augusta at 9:30 am.  The legislature will be in session then and we intend to stand with signs opposing LD 1781.  At 1:00 pm on Feb 27 the Taxation Committee again meets to likely finalize the corporate welfare bill and send it off for final vote in the House and Senate.  We will also attend this meeting.

The legislature will also meet in chambers on March 6 & 8 at 10:00 am and I intend to be at those with my sign.

You might have noticed that we’ve had virtually no mainstream media coverage of our campaign – despite all the many letters to the editor.  My thinking is that the media feel ‘constrained’ by the power of BIW/GD so they stay in line - after all our state is a corporate colony.  But then editors allow the message to get out via our letters.  So at least we are getting something out to the public in this era of corporate media clampdown.

We’ve been trying to also think a bit more strategically – if you live in a community near one of the legislative leaders in Augusta please get some help and let them know how you all feel about LD 1781. I'd be surprised if this doesn't come to a head by the end of next week.

You’ve got to be a pain in the ass to get anything done anymore – so on we go....

You can contact your two local Maine legislators here



Su
nday, 25 February 2018
Day 14: This Issue latest guest

Dear friend Mark Roman, woodworker from Solon, Maine, was my latest guest on This Issue.

We discuss, of course, the $60 million corporate give-a-way bill for General Dynamics.

Mark is one of the leaders in this statewide effort to stop LD 1781.

You can send a message to your Maine legislators by clicking here 

The show plays on 16 local public access TV stations across the state.



Monday, 26 February 2018
Day 15: Zumwalt to be nuclear equipped?


This is a message from Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, South Korea where the new Zumwalt destroyers will be porting.  They are built at Bath Iron Works in Maine and might soon be equipped with nuclear-tipped first-strike attack cruise missiles.

The Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) includes a long-term plan that could put nuclear cruise missiles aboard the new Zumwalt class (DDG 1000) of stealthy Navy destroyers, according to the commander of U.S. Strategic Command.

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, StratCom chief, said the plan to develop a new, low-yield nuclear Sea-Launched Cruise Missile (SLCM, or "Slick-em") would not be limited to using ballistic submarines as the sole launch platform, as many assumed when the NPR was endorsed by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis earlier this month.

"It's important to know that the NPR, when it talks about the Sea-Launched Cruise Missile, does not say 'Submarine-Launched Cruise Missile,' " Hyten said in a Feb. 16 keynote address in Washington, D.C., at the National Defense University's Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction.

In response to questions, he said, "We want to look at a number of options -- everything from surface DDG 1000s into submarines, different types of submarines" for the SLCMs.

  • Went back to BIW at shift change time this afternoon.  Not one worker taunted me - usually some young whipper snapper does but they were all subdued.  My legs are quite shaky now - standing there for an hour is a challenge.  In the morning I leave early for the state capital in Augusta where I will stand (along with some others) between the House and Senate chambers while they are in session.  Then at 1:00 pm the Taxation Committee meets again to discuss the bill.  We will be there for that meeting as well.  Thanks to all those who are fasting alongside of me and I deeply appreciate all the kind words of solidarity from friends and family.



Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Day 16: GD bill tabled again in Augusta


John Morris (left) and Peter Morgan at entrance to the House chamber in Augusta


Cynthia Howard offering flyer to Taxation Committee co-chair Sen. Dana Dow (on left)


Mary and Mike Donnelly inside the capital building


Mary handing flyer to union representative from BIW


Russell Wray (left) and Jason Rawn outside the Taxation Committee work session room


Bruce asking Taxation Committee co-chair Rep. Ryan Tipping to vote against this bad bill to give GD $60 million

Photos by Regis Tremblay, Peter Woodruff and Martha Spiess

Ten of us gathered this morning at the state capital in Augusta before the House and Senate members began entering their respective chambers on the third floor.  We spread out along the hallway between the two chambers with our signs and flyers that outlined our opposition to LD 1781 - the $60 million corporate welfare bill that General Dynamics is demanding from the state.

We handed out about 125 flyers to the elected officials, lobbyists and even a swarm of school kids on a tour of the capital building.  We had quite a few conversations with various members of the House and Senate as well.  Our presence was surely noticed and felt.

Just after 12:30 we all gathered in front of the Taxation Committee meeting room where their 3rd work session on this bill was scheduled for 1:00 pm.  LD 1781 was supposed to be the fourth item on the agenda but they moved it to the front of the queue and immediately said they had to table the bill for the third time due to the new language submitted by BIW/GD at the last session still not being understood.  So we will be back at the capital on Tuesday, March 6.

On that day we'll again gather at 9:30 am on the third floor between the two chambers with signs and flyers so we could use some more help on that occasion.  Then at 1:00 pm we'll go down to the first floor to Room 127 for the Taxation Committee meeting.

There are many ways to view these delays but it appears to me that BIW/GD are resisting some language changes that the legislature wants in the bill and likely negotiations are going on behind closed doors.  In the meantime the delay gives us more time to organize opposition and I can say with delight that people are working harder than ever across the state to stop this corporate give-a-way from cash-poor Maine. Our state has massive human and infrastructure needs that $60 million would go a long way in helping us deal with.

So please keep contacting your state legislators and keep writing letters to local papers.  In the meantime I remain determined to continue my hunger strike until the final votes are taken in the legislative chambers.

Short update from Augusta by leaders of campaign opposing corporate welfare

Mark Roman (Solon), Mary Donnelly (Brunswick) and Jason Rawn (Lincolnville) give a short run down on the status of LD 1781 corporate welfare bill demanded by BIW/GD.

Video by Martha Spiess (Freeport).


Wednesday, 28 February 2018
Day 17: Local paper rejects my scheduled Op-Ed


With friends yesterday at the capital in Augusta, Maine

The local Times Record newspaper, based in nearby Brunswick, yesterday rejected my scheduled Op-Ed in the paper. Our local group called PeaceWorks has a twice a month column in the paper which I often write for.  The only rule we've ever been told was that we had to keep the issues local.  Nothing could be more local than the one I submitted.  When we asked the editor why it was rejected he said the following:

  • There's no attribution to the [BIW] workers he cites, and I'm afraid we're going into hearsay territory with this;
     

  • I'd like some attribution to "43,000 kids living in poverty in Maine" — where did that number come from?
     

  • I haven't seen any reports that General Dynamics is "suggesting that if they don't get this $60 million then BIW might have to shut their doors and move." Does he have a source for this?
     

  • If Bruce hasn't eaten since he went on hunger strike two weeks ago, how is he still able to demonstrate outside BIW?

My responses to his questions did not seem to change the editor's mind and he refused to run the Op-Ed.  So here it is and you can decide what you think.

The Tragedy of Corporate Welfare in Maine

By Bruce K. Gagnon

The Taxation Committee of the state legislature will likely vote ‘Ought to pass’ this week on LD 1781 [they actually delayed the bill until March 6] – the corporate give-a-way of $60 million to General Dynamics (GD).  The bill will then go to the floor of the state House and Senate for final vote.

It’s been an interesting process to watch legislators, who complained about Sen. Susan Collins supporting the Trump federal tax bill, turn around and support a similar bill (on a lesser scale) in Augusta.  And politicians wonder why citizens have become so cynical and many have given up on politics.  The idea of truth, fairness and justice seem to get squeezed out of the process in Augusta just like in Washington.

I’ve been doing a hunger strike against LD 1781 since February 12 and now about 25 others around Maine have joined me by fasting for days at a time.  During this period I’ve been going down to BIW during shift change to stand with a sign and hand out flyers.  I’ve had some very interesting conversations with workers.

Some workers I met are not in favor of this corporate welfare bill for GD.  Two told me that they were angry about the last contract that froze wages for the next four years and forced give-backs in health and pension benefits.  Other workers talked about the stock buybacks by GD – from 2009-2017 the company bought back $14.4 billion of its own stocks – driving up market share.  Buybacks benefit corporate executives like GD’s CEO who made $21 million in 2016.

On my flyer that I handed out at BIW (which I titled ‘Where is our solidarity?’) I said in part, “There are now 43,000 kids living in poverty in Maine.  There is no money to fix pot-holes in roads and our bridges are deemed ‘deficient’ by DOT.  Thousands in Maine have no health care.  In rural Maine hospitals, schools and mills are closing.  What could Maine do with $60 million that GD does not really need? ”

It’s been quite rewarding to watch the level of interest and activity across Maine around this bill.  There have been more than 80 letters to the editor published in 20 Maine media outlets.  People really do care about how their tax dollars are spent by Augusta.

The fear card is constantly played by GD suggesting that if they don’t get this $60 million then BIW might have to shut their doors and move.  Ridiculous.  BIW is a money making operation for GD and the backlog of ships continues to grow.

One important thing we’ve learned during the debate over LD 1781 is that when GD signs a contract to build ships at BIW all of their costs are covered by the tax payer funded Pentagon budget. Worker training, equipment, materials, wages, utilities and a healthy profit for the company are all included in the contract.  We also learned that GD’s taxes owed to Maine are also reimbursed by the federal taxpayers under the contract.

It is the job of the federal government to pay for the national defense.  It is not the job of state and local governments to cover those expenses.  But corporations like GD have upped the pressure on states like Maine (and Connecticut where GD is demanding $150 million) and cities like Bath that are hit up by GD for tax breaks.

Corporations are in business for one thing and that is to make maximum profit.  They don’t care where they get it as long as they succeed.  But the role of government (local, state, national) should be to strike a balance to ensure all the needs of the people are met – health care for all, fully funded education, roads, bridges, water, sewer and other public services in good repair.  In order to pay for those things government needs to ensure that tax dollars are properly spent to do the most good.  In my opinion LD 1781 violates that mandate to do good.

The public should be alarmed about this corporate welfare bill.  Most conservatives complain about welfare for poor people but remain largely silent about tax dollars given to the corporate class.  Generally liberals oppose corporate welfare but sadly most elected Democrats in the Midcoast are supporting LD 1781 because they fear they will not be reelected if they deny GD.  They’ve put their own reelection above the needs of those who presently suffer from poverty and neglect in Maine.  To me that is a real tragedy.



Thursday, 1 March 2018
Day 18: Coverage in Portland Paper

Good story yesterday in the Portland Press Herald about our action in the halls of the state capital last Tuesday. 

The article was called:

Controversial bill to give BIW tax credits stalls in State House, extending foe’s food strike

A legislative committee appears to favor the $60 million in incentives but delays a vote on the 16th day of an activist's liquid-only diet.

You can read the story here

Outsourced ... Maine is a corporate colony

On the second day of our recent trial for civil disobedience at Bath Iron Works in 2017 the Sagadahoc County Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings dismissed the charges and stated, "Basically the [Bath] police department is outsourced to BIW [Bath Iron Works] on these events...."

Based on recent experiences, during this statewide campaign to oppose $60 million in corporate welfare for BIW/General Dynamics, I'd like to expand on the judges words to say - the local newspaper in this community (the Times Record) has been outsourced to BIW/GD and the Maine State Legislature has been outsourced to BIW/GD.  Maine is a corporate colony and democracy does not truly exist here at this moment.

I don't think I am exaggerating this claim.  All one has to do is look at recent issues where the state legislature has bowed to the power of JD Irving Ltd on the mining issue; Nestle (Poland Springs) on the water extraction issue; General Dynamics on the corporate subsidy issue; and many more similar cases.  Corporations like Walmart, Hannaford, L.L. Bean, Pratt & Whitney, Saco Defense, and others generally get what they want from the legislature and local communities where they operate.

Over the years Maine has subsidized hundreds of corporate operations using various mechanisms to hand over taxpayer dollars supposedly in return for more jobs.  But studies show that in most cases job growth at subsidized firms is considerably lower than the state average.  There was no relationship between the size of subsidies received and the amount of jobs gained – as subsidies rose, job gains did not.

A Maine Sunday Telegram investigation found that neither a $31.8 million loan nor the $8.2 million in equity investment—which was the basis for two investors receiving state tax credits—actually paid for improvements to the Great Northern Paper mill that shut down in 2014. Instead the funds were returned the same day to investors, never going into the mill for changes that could have saved jobs, and Great Northern filed for bankruptcy later that year. Hundreds of jobs were lost after workers were given false promises.

Following the recent passage of Trump's corporate tax cuts at the federal level the rate of taxation for the fat cats will drop even lower.  According to a transcript of an online call, General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic characterized the passage of the tax overhaul this way:  “We are in a period right now of growth that needs to be supported by investments and happily and officiously we’ve a tax bill that gives us more free cash flow,” Novakovic told shareholders. “So a happy event.”

What is happening in Maine is happening nationwide and even worldwide as the corporate agenda is clearly to hollow out democracy and retard social progress.  It is essentially a return to feudalism - this time corporate style.

So our meager campaign here in Maine to oppose this give-a-way of a precious $60 million to GD is just one of many similar struggles currently going across our state and beyond.



Friday, 2 March 2018
Day 19: How tings really work in Augusta - it's "the lobby"

As we move closer to the actual voting in the Maine legislature on the $60 million corporate welfare bill for General Dynamics (GD) there are many people sending me information about the thinking of various members of the House and Senate in Augusta.  (I'm not going to use any names in this below just to protect the 'innocent'.)

Today I was talking with one person who informed me that he had just spoken with a long-time BIW worker who lives in a nearby town.  This worker told my friend that he/she was opposed to the GD corporate subsidy bill and was going to write his/her state representative and make the case that as long as the CEO of General Dynamics was getting $21 million a year, while workers at the shipyard had no pay increases for 4 years and give-backs in retirement and pension plans, then this bill should not pass.  That is powerful to hear - and I've heard the same thing from other workers while at BIW during the past two weeks. 

One state representative (a Democrat) wrote back to a friend who had asked this rep to vote against LD 1781.  The representative replied:

Thanks for writing to share your thoughts.  This is a very complex issue because of the way that our society has allowed military/industrial corporations to be established in multiple locations and because of the way these multi-state national corporations now work by inviting their parts to compete against each other. We cannot (and will not) compete with Mississippi, which throws 10s of millions at their GD subsidiary.
It is certainly correct that General Dynamics does not need Maine's money. It is also correct that we have many needs for our tax dollars that are not being met under the current administration.
However, because all of the legislative leadership on both sides of the aisle signed on to this bill and because, I believe, the majority of the Legislature (all of the R's and enough of the D's) will vote for this bill, I am now attempting to make this the best bill that it can be.  We are trying to make certain that any $$ BIW receives are tied to job retention and job growth.  This way they cannot use state dollars to "streamline" their operations and eliminate jobs.  We will also attempt to make this bill cost less in the long run.
Working on it...


My friend wrote the representative back asking, "So will you in the end vote against this corporate welfare to the detriment of our state budget showing so many deficits?"  I doubt there was a second response from the representative.

Many Mainers are trying to understand why the Democrats (as you can see above clearly understand that this is a bad bill) are voting for it anyway.  One state representative who opposes the bill wrote me last night with an explanation of how things really work in Augusta.

I think it useful to understand why the major party statehouse leadership is inclined toward supporting corporate welfare.  The leaders purchase loyalty from their caucus members through funds laundered by the leadership-PAC process, funds that mostly originate with "the lobby" which are primarily corporations.  Those members who are most loyal (and can be 'trusted' to follow instructions) become committee chairs, so it is not surprising that they are generally weak personalities.  (Remember that half of the 15 Democrats who flipped their votes to get rid of ranked choice voting were committee chairs.)

The most vulnerable statehouse leaders are those who are seeking higher elected office; the others are not accountable to anyone.

I hope these comments are helpful.

Thus the bottom line is that the corporate "lobby" really runs the show in Augusta - like in most places across the nation.  The needs of the people are secondary to the wants of the corporate masters - Mr. Big as I like to call the oligarchy.  The Democrats, who love to talk glowingly about social justice and fairness during election time, mostly fall in line because they want to advance.  They go along to get along.  The people be damned in the end.

The options for the public are - surrender and take any crumbs that might fall off the table, or fight like hell to the bitter end.  I choose to fight and thank those around the state who are doing the same.

The only way to take on "the lobby" is to do it publicly without compromise.  Let's see which Democrats turn tail and run when the votes are counted on LD 1781.

Always know who your real friends are.....

We support the workers at BIW



Saturday, 3 March 2018
Day 20: BIW Lenten vigil and good media

 

 
Photos by Peter Woodruff

Thirty-two people from all over Maine gathered at Bath Iron Works (BIW) today for the weekly Lenten Vigil.  It was very cold, windy and spitting rain during our hour-long time at the shipyard.

Bob Klotz again rode his bicycle all the way from South Portland to be with us (took almost four hours).  With a harmonica around his neck and a snare drum strapped to the back of his bike he made a clear reference to BIW's claim that this whole campaign to oppose the $60 million give-a-way to General Dynamics was all the work of a 'one-man band'.

I learned many years ago while working for the United Farm Workers Union that big corporations like Coca-Cola (that owns the Minute Maid orange juice brand with which the union had a contract in Florida for their fruit pickers) always make big mistakes at key moments that helped rally the workers.  This usually happened around contract negotiation time.  Such is the case here with this effort opposing the GD welfare they are demanding from Maine.  Their attempt to discredit me - as a one man band - back fired and was an insult to legions of citizens around the state who were helping to put this effort in motion.  So BIW's arrogance helped give our campaign a real shot in the arm.

At the end of today's vigil we held a news conference that was coordinated by Bob Klotz and two media outlets came.  One of the speakers in the news conference was businesswoman Sarah Lachance who did a great job making the case that the corporate subsidy for GD was unfair to other Maine businesses that have to show their need to banks before they can get operating loans.  GD has refused all along to open their books for review to show that they really need the $60 million they are demanding from the state when members of the Taxation Committee in Augusta have asked them to do so.

Earlier in the day, at 9:00 this morning, a very popular conservative radio talk show (WGAN) interviewed Chris Busby. He is the editor/publisher of the very popular monthly publication that ran the front page story entitled Ship of Fools: Tax Breaks for BIW, World War III for us.  I was super interested to hear how Busby would be received with his message of opposition to the GD tax subsidy and only one caller out of about 10 or so that phoned in supported LD 1781.  Even the conservative talk show host was clearly opposed to the bill.  This was a big deal and will go a long way in helping to further build the growing wave against this unfair corporate give-a-way.

Following the vigil MB drove us and a local friend to Portland where Bob interviewed me on the public access TV program that airs in that city - Maine's largest metropolitan area.  The show should be up on the air soon and we thank Brian Leonard for making that happen.

So it was a busy but great day and it feels like momentum continues to grow around Maine to stop this bad bill from being approved.  We urge all Mainers to keep contacting their state legislators.  You can reach them here.

News Conference at BIW

Thanks to Bob Klotz for organizing the news conference and Martha Spiess for this short video.
 



Sunday, 4 March 2018
Day 21: Professor Delogu on giving BIW/GD $60 million

By Orlando Delogu

1.  This legislation was not a legislative carry-over; it was not the product of Legislative committee or Executive office thinking.  GD/BIW and its legal lobbyists drafted LD 1781 in early January.  It was rammed into the short 2nd session by the leadership in violation of legislative rules.  The talking points for sponsors of this LD come directly from these same corporate lobbyists.

2.  The legislation talks of preserving jobs, but it allows employment to sink from present levels (approx. 5,500) to below 4,000 and they still get the money.

3.  The legislation talks of $100 million of new investment, but defines new investment so broadly that almost all shipbuilding expenses qualify as “new investment.”  It assumes we can’t see through this scam.

4.  Amendments breaking this tax give-away into two $30 million packages change none of the substantive provisions—GD/BIW still winds up with $60 million in two bites instead of one.

5. The veiled threat that GD/BIW is in a competitive market and may leave Maine if this subsidy is not granted permeates every discussion of LD 1781—IT’S A LIE unless one assumes that GD/BIW is prepared to walk away from a $500 million operating plant, a 10 year backlog of work, a trained work force, and extraordinary profits that will extend far into the future ($3 billion in 2017).  COMMON SENSE SAYS NONE OF THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN.

As for competition—BIW and Ingalls have divided navy ship building contracts for decades; they will continue to do so.  That’s what the navy wants.

6.  In the face of these realities, the hubris of the corporation’s demand for $60 million from relatively poor Maine Taxpayers is best seen in the CEO’s $21 million annual salary, and her boast, “Boeing makes airplanes, GD/BIW makes profits.”   Yes they do—obscene profits.

In short, Maine needs the $60 million far more than GD/BIW.  Every fact cries out for a NO vote on LD 1781, or a veto by the Governor who continually touts his fiscal responsibility.  If our political leaders can’t find the courage to say NO, a people’s veto is surely in order.

~ Orlando Delogu of Portland is emeritus professor of law at the University of Maine School of Law and a longtime public policy consultant to federal, state, and local government agencies and officials.



Mon
day, 5 March 2018
Day 22: Messages from friends about corporate welfare for GD


Standing at the capital in Augusta last week.  We are going back on Tuesday (March 6) at 9:30 am to stand in the hallway on the 3rd floor with signs appropriate to defeating LD 1781 and hand out flyers to the legislators as they enter the House and Senate chambers.  At 1:00 pm is the Taxation Committee Work Session on the bill (likely the last one) in room 127. We will be there as well.

I've been getting lots of messages on email and Facebook and thought I'd share a few with you.

One of them is from Connie Jenkins who last week (along with five others) met with her State Rep. Ryan Tipping who is co-chair of the Taxation Committee in Augusta.  Rep. Tipping told his constituents in the 90 minute meeting that he thought LD 1781 was a 'bad bill' but because 'leadership' supported the bill he felt he too must support it and was trying to 'make it a better bill'.  Connie wrote him this yesterday in anticipation of the Tuesday Taxation Committee Work Session in Augusta (at 1:00 pm in Room 127) that many of us will be attending.

Dear Ryan,

As you know, there have been numerous letters, emails, demonstrations, and vigils by citizens throughout the State of Maine who are outraged that  people elected to represent us are caving to Party “leaders” and preparing to vote in favor of LD 1781. 

Following is a recent email I wanted to share with you.  It includes coverage of some of the powerful, heartfelt statements at yesterday’s vigil at BIW and a brief “spot-on” summary of the situation we’re in by an emeritus professor of law [Orlando Delogu] at the University of Maine School of Law. 

Please consider these as you prepare for Tuesday.  I plan to be there for the vote and I pray you will vote from principle rather than Party pressure. 

Sincerely,
Connie Jenkins
Orono

  • I will not vote to spend our taxpayer dollars on a company like General Dynamics. More than 1/3 of the amount they want the state to give them would go to just 1 year of the CEO's salary. We can't afford their jobs or the damage done by what they build. We need to start using our resources to develop clean, renewable energy generation. This effort will create many good paying jobs that will last into the future, reduce pollution and start saving lives instead of taking them. Best wishes, Dave Miramant (Democrat State Representative) from Knox, Maine.
     
  • The crew of the Golden Rule (VFP peace sail boat) are with you. We are concerned for you in your efforts. Stay in touch when possible. Will Van Natta from San Diego, California.
     
  • Yes, we have the same all over where the so-called free market economy is and we have the same struggles to do.  It is great that You fight against the tax release - through it the system is made visible. May we struggle toward a society with different rules : from each according to ability to each according to the needs. Hope You eat again soon, and be careful. We have a long fight and maybe not during our lifetime we see the results...Kerstin Tuomala, Finland.
     
  • I can't help but think that if the good and decent elders of Maine who do not use email petitions, etc., knew what was going on, they would add their voices.  How do we reach/encourage them in a hurry?  Mary Kate Small, Camden, Maine.
     
  • Heard you on the [Maine public] radio this morning. You sounded great and the interviewer framed it nicely.  She didn't try to make you sound like some leftie whack job.  Very sensible, passionate, and committed.  Good for you!  best, Doug Rawlings, Chesterville, Maine.
     
  • Stop supporting the war machine and let Bruce start eating again. Love you. Robin Farrin, Eastport, Maine.
     
  • We cheer for you from Gangjoung!!! Koh Gilchun, Jeju Island, South Korea.
     
  • Great coverage in the Portland Phoenix (scroll to p. 4) of the opposition to corporate welfare for General Dynamics. Bruce Gagnon explains his hunger strike, and Mark Roman explains why 43,000 kids in Maine need the $60 million more than BIW does.  Lisa Savage from Solon, Maine.
  • As a friend of mine said, "It’s not every day that we have an issue here in Maine that addresses: military spending, corporate welfare, unfair tax policies, legislative accountability, misappropriation of tax dollars, planet devastation, nuclear proliferation, geopolitical instability, weapons of mass destruction." From former Maine friend Ken Jones now living in North Carolina.
     
  • I see the energy you get from the supporters. You look in good spirits. It's working. Don't give up. I'm so supportive of you and this cause. Go Go Go!!!!! I love you dearly.  From my sister Lynn Stiles in Colorado.
     
  •  I got a friendly trouble maker to pass out the handouts at [Democrats party] caucus yesterday. She said people had not heard of [LD 1781] before and were grateful to receive the information. I've found that the more people examine this, the more opposition to it we drum up. It really is the epitome of what is wrong with our country. We can't change the whole world, but this IS something within our power to change.  Cynthia Handlen from Portland, Maine.

Reporting from Bath on hunger strike

Video by Regis Tremblay.



Tuesday, 6 March 2018
Day 23: Shut out of Taxation Committee meeting in Augusta

We had 27 opponents gather on the third floor of the State Capital this morning beginning at 9:30.  We covered both sides of the hallway in between the House and Senate chambers.  We handed out over 100 flyers again to legislators, lobbyists and the public.  We stayed up there until about noon when we learned that BIW had bused about 40 people to the Taxation Committee meeting and filled up the room ensuring that we were banished to an overflow room across the hall.  On the doors at each room there were notices (the first time we had seen them since we began coming to these meeting during the three previous sessions) directing people to the overflow room.  So it is quite clear that this whole charade was well planned in advance between BIW/GD and the legislative committee.


Connie Jenkins (Orono) with her Wizard of Oz sign hoping for a miracle that the Democrats in the legislature would find the courage to stand up and deny corporate welfare to General Dynamics (GD)


Mary Donnelly (Brunswick) handing out flyers in between the House and Senate chambers in the capital building


Artist Russell Wray (Hancock) with an excellent sign


Peter Robbins (Sedgwick) and Tom Whitney (South Paris) talk with a Republican legislator who has twice told me he was going to vote against the bill


Around noon time one of our friends came up to me on the 3rd floor where I was resting before the 1:00 pm Taxation Committee meeting which was to be held on the first floor of the capital.  He said the room downstairs is already full with BIW workers.  Come to find out BIW bused in a room full of management supervisors and some workers at least two hours in advance and filled up the room so our folks could not get a seat inside the final Work Session of the committee.


I refused to go into the 'overflow room' across the hallway from the Taxation Committee and instead sat in the hall with about half our folks during the entire meeting which lasted well over three hours.  Our other friends sat in the overflow room and came out now and then and briefed us on the sausage making process that they could hear over a sound system.


During our time on the 3rd floor hallway while the House and Senate were gathering we had several excellent conversations with some legislators who are choosing to oppose the $60 million give-a-way bill to GD - one of the richest corporations on the planet.

While there, one of our supporters, a union person in Maine, told us a remarkable story.  She reported that she had spoken to a representative from the Machinist Union (S6) at BIW who informed her that they were not going to support the bill.  One of their members had read the cover story in the February issue of The Bollard magazine out of Portland entitled Ship of Fools.  This blockbuster article was widely distributed throughout southern and midcoast Maine.  After reading the story the worker began educating other BIW workers about how GD is loaded with so much cash they are buying back their own stocks driving up market share which primarily benefits top executives and investors.  As a result the union Executive Committee voted not to endorse LD 1781.  There has been no media coverage of this huge story.

This is a big deal for many reasons - primarily because many legislators in Augusta have been hanging their hats on how they are supporting the bill because of the workers - saying that the workers want the bill passed thus they as elected officials must honor their demands.  As it turns out there is much, much more to the story.


From the inside of the Taxation Committee meeting room looking out - one of our locked out friends held his sign against the window to make his point.  The human spirit can't be shut out.


Connie Jenkins (Orono) asked the Taxation co-chairs Sen. Dana Dow and Rep. Ryan Tipping to allow our side to have half the seats in the room before the meeting began.  They both refused.


As we were leaving the state house we noticed BIW workers piling onto a bus. One of our friends with us, a former BIW worker who retired after 34 years at the shipyard, said the workers were likely paid overtime for being at the work session.


After the long Taxation Committee meeting they voted 9-2 in favor of moving the bill to the floor of the House and Senate.  The two votes against were Sen. Justin Chenette (D-Saco) and Rep. Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth).  Chenette once again stated that he could not vote for the bill because BIW/GD never proved they really needed the money - they were unwilling to show the committee in closed session their books to prove they were in financial straits.  Rep. Cooper talked about the great many social needs across Maine that presently exist and how this $60 million was essentially peanuts to mega-corp GD while to our state these kinds of funds are urgently needed.

Rep. Ryan Tipping (D-Orono), who himself was once an organizer for the Maine People's Alliance, weakly stated that he would vote for the bill despite his worries that we are now in a 'race to the bottom'.  It's a strange thing to hear someone say that (which is totally correct) and then meekly change course and vote for a bill that will only accelerate that plunge into further poverty and such.  Rep. Denise Tepler (D-Topsham) made the absurd statement that she thought we had ample funds in the state treasury to fund social needs and the corporate welfare bill for GD.

All Republicans on the committee voted for the bill.

LD 1781 next goes to legislature staff who must insert the final language into the bill which the committee analyst told me should take about two weeks since we are nearing the end of this special session and the backlog of bills needing staff work before they can go to the floor for final votes is growing.

My plan is to continue my hunger strike and use this remaining time to help build even greater opposition to LD 1781 in Maine.  Working with good folks across the state we will keep asking Mainers to contact their state legislators and to keep writing letters to the editor.  I will be going back to Augusta to stand between the House and Senate chambers with my sign next Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 am to noon.

See the Portland Press Herald coverage of today's events here

Photos by Regis Tremblay, Martha Spiess and Bob Klotz
 


Wednesday, 7 March 2018
Day 24: Rejected Op-Ed makes it into even bigger paper

My Op-Ed to the Times Record newspaper in Brunswick was rejected by the editor.  I covered all that in this blog post.  It was to run in a twice a month column that our local peace group PeaceWorks has had for the past three years.  A bunch of us took turns writing for it.  During the past year the editor cracked down and would not let us write about issues outside the local area (like Jeju Island or Okinawa).

Following the rejection of my Op-Ed the editor came back to our PeaceWorks liaison with him and told her this:

I am writing to let you know that The Times Record will no longer be running the Peaceworks column. I've been ruminating on this for a couple of months, and I no longer feel as though Peaceworks' interests and agenda are compatible with The Times Record's mission.

Finally, please note that I do not appreciate Mr. Gagnon sharing our correspondence on his blog, and then having that specific blog post shared on Peaceworks' Facebook page.

Thank you for your understanding.

John Swinconeck
Executive Editor, The Times Record
(207) 504-8209
3 Business Parkway, Suite 1
Brunswick, ME 04011-1302

So after folks heard about my Op-Ed rejection at the Times Record a couple people emailed me and told me I should share it with the Bangor Daily News (BDN).  I was in a fit of emotion and just wanted to scream but went ahead and called the BDN editorial department and they said, sure send it up and we will look at it.  From there it was assigned to an assistant who contacted me with a couple questions and requested my sources on two items.  I gave him the information and now it is online and will be in print on Thursday.  Here is a very slightly revised version of the original piece.

More corporate welfare is a poor use of Maine’s tax dollars
By Bruce K. Gagnon
Special to the BDN

http://bangordailynews.com/2018/03/07/opinion/contributors/more-corporate-welfare-is-a-poor-use-of-maines-tax-dollars/

The Maine Legislature is considering LD 1781, a $60 million corporate tax break giveaway to General Dynamics, owner of Bath Iron Works. The bill will soon go to the House and Senate for a final vote. Now is the time for Mainers to speak out.

It’s been interesting to watch legislators who complained about Sen. Susan Collins supporting the Trump tax bill turn around and support a similar bill (on a lesser scale) in Augusta. And politicians wonder why citizens have become so cynical and many have given up on politics. The idea of truth, fairness and justice seem to get squeezed out of the process in Augusta just like in Washington.

I’ve been on a hunger strike against LD 1781 since Feb. 12, and now about 30 others around Maine have joined by fasting for days at a time. During this period, I’ve been going down to the Bath shipyard during shift change to stand with a sign and hand out flyers. I’ve had some very interesting conversations with workers.

Some workers I met are not in favor of this corporate welfare bill for General Dynamics. Two told me they were angry about the last contract that froze wages and forced givebacks in health and pension benefits. Other workers talked about General Dynamics’ stock buybacks — from 2009 to 2017 the company bought back $14.4 billion of its own stocks — driving up market share. Buybacks benefit corporate executives like General Dynamics’ CEO, who made $21 million in 2016.

On my flyer I handed out at the shipyard, which I titled “Where is our solidarity?” I said, in part: “There are now 43,000 kids living in poverty in Maine. There is no money to fix pot-holes in roads and our bridges are deemed ‘deficient’ by DOT. Thousands in Maine have no health care. In rural Maine hospitals, schools and mills are closing. What could Maine do with $60 million that GD does not really need?”

It’s been rewarding to watch the level of interest and activity across Maine around this bill. There have been more than 80 letters to the editor by opponents published in 20 Maine media outlets. People really do care about how their tax dollars are spent in Augusta.

General Dynamics often plays the fear card, making veiled threats that the Bath shipyard might not be able to remain competitive if they don’t get this $60 million, the implication being that they would be forced to downsize or even close. We heard these words in 2013 when BIW asked the city of Bath for another tax break. (After pressure from residents, the City Council cut the request in half.) BIW is a money making operation for General Dynamics, and the backlog of ships continues to grow.

One important thing we’ve learned during the debate over LD 1781 is that when General Dynamics signs a contract to build ships in Bath most of its costs — worker training, equipment, materials, wages, utilities — are covered by the taxpayer-funded Navy budget. We also learned that General Dynamics’ taxes owed to Maine can be reimbursed by the federal taxpayers under the contract.

It is the job of the federal government to pay for the national defense. It is not the job of state and local governments to cover those expenses. But corporations like General Dynamics have upped the pressure on states like Maine (and Connecticut, where General Dynamics is demanding $150 million) and cities like Bath that are hit up for tax breaks.

Corporations are in business for one thing, and that is to make maximum profit. They don’t care where they get it as long as they succeed. But the role of government should be to strike a balance to ensure all the needs of the people are met. In order to pay for those needs, government must ensure that tax dollars are properly spent to do the most good. LD 1781 violates that mandate to do good.

The public should be alarmed about this corporate welfare bill. Most conservatives complain about welfare for poor people but remain largely silent about tax dollars given to the corporate class. Generally, liberals oppose corporate welfare, but sadly many legislative Democrats support LD 1781. Many legislators have put the demands of General Dynamics above the needs of those who presently suffer from poverty and neglect in Maine. To me, that is a real tragedy.

~ Bruce K. Gagnon is a member of Veterans For Peace. He lives in Bath.



Thurs
day, 8 March 2018
Day 25: Portland public access TV interview - thanks to Brian Leonard

Brian Leonard in Portland last weekend recorded an interview between Bob Klotz and myself on LD 1781 for Portland Public access TV.

Many thanks to Brian for the excellent illustrations in the video.
 



Fri
day, 9 March 2018
Day 26: Maine Has Been 'Outsourced' to Bath Iron Works


Bruce Gagnon Is Right; Maine Has Been ‘Outsourced’ to Bath Iron Works
By Alex Nunes
https://nunesweekly.com/2018/03/08/bruce-gagnon-is-right-maine-has-been-outsourced-to-bath-iron-works/

I’m skeptical of bold claims.

That’s why I wondered last week if peace activist Bruce Gagnon was indulging in a little hyperbole when he sent me an email alleging a local newspaper, the Maine legislature, and the city of Bath’s police department were all abdicating their duty to the public and instead doing the bidding of Navy contractor Bath Iron Works.

Gagnon is currently leading the campaign against a proposed $60-million tax credit to BIW, a builder of Navy destroyers and a subsidiary of defense industry behemoth General Dynamics.

“The Bath PD was outsourced to BIW/GD,” Gagnon’s email read, “the Times Record newspaper has been outsourced to BIW/GD, and the Maine state legislature has been outsourced to BIW/GD.”

But, after looking into each of these claims, I can’t say I disagree.

Bath Police

I’ll start with the Bath Police Department, which Gagnon accuses of being “outsourced” to a corporate entity. In this instance, Gagnon’s allegation is backed up by a pretty credible source: a state Superior Court justice.

Last month, judge Daniel Billings acquitted Gagnon and eight other defendants arrested and charged last April after staging a protest at a Bath Iron Works “christening” ceremony for a newly constructed warship.

“Here, the testimony is basically the police department is outsourced to BIW on these events,” Billings said in his decision, which was videotaped by activist Regis Tremblay and posted on YouTube.

As Billings saw it, Bath Lieutenant Robert Savary was “taking his direction” from the company’s security personnel and “arrests were going to be made or not based upon” the discretion of Bath Iron Works.

Billings concluded: “That’s not how this is supposed to work.”

The justice, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Paul LePage, went on, criticizing the city for its lack of clear rules on how it polices protests. Billings seemed to go as far as to suggest city officials were leaving themselves vulnerable to a lawsuit.

“Law enforcement is given unfettered discretion,” Billings said. “They don’t have an ordinance, and the city is really putting themselves at legal risk.”

When I contacted two members of the Bath City Council, I didn’t get the sense they were taking the word of a sitting judge too seriously.

Council Chairwoman Mari Eosco wrote back in what appeared to be a hurried email: “I’ve heard different there are different interpretations of what Justice Billings has said.”

Eosco continued, “The council does not determine a departments protocol, therefore I do not have a comment.”

Council member Julie Ambrosino said much the same: “I have read conflicting information of Justice Billings’ ruling concerning this event and Bath police involvement. Bath city council does not give instruction to the police department on how they handle procedure. I have no comment to make.”

These responses, frankly, struck me as ludicrous. Are they trying to argue the city council has no say over its police department’s policies? If the council doesn’t “give instruction,” then who does? Does the police chief have impunity? Has martial law been declared in Bath, Maine?

Eosco and Ambrosino both claimed there are conflicting accounts of Justice Billings’ ruling. But his comments seemed pretty unequivocal to me. They can also be viewed by anyone with an Internet connection and the time to sit through a 12-minute video that does not appear to be significantly edited.

Even if Justice Billings’ ruling was ambiguous, is it really that difficult for city council members to get a copy of the transcript from that day or set up a meeting with Billings to get some clarification?

My instinct is Ambrosino and Eosco are less confused than they are uninterested.

Bath Chief of Police Michael Field and Lieutenant Savary did not respond to my requests for comment on this subject.

Logan Perkins, a lawyer who represented three of the nine defendants at trial, said in a phone interview that court testimony “suggested that the highest level of collaboration, and preplanning, and decision-making” between BIW security and the police department “had essentially rendered the Bath Police Department into an extension of Bath Iron Works’ private security.”

She said, “They’re actively subverting the Constitution in favor of the private entity’s interest.

They’re more concerned with enforcing what Bath Iron Works wants than they are with enforcing the United States Constitution. To me, that’s the scandal here.”

The Times Record

Gagnon’s second example of an entity being “outsourced” to BIW is The Times Record newspaper of Brunswick.

For three years now, the group PeaceWorks has had a regular column in the paper. Activists rotate as authors and educate readers on the concerns of the local peace movement on a twice-monthly basis.

But, as debate over the proposed 20-year, $60-million tax break heated up at the capitol in Augusta and opponents placed dozens of letters to the editor and op-eds in newspapers across the state, The Times Record began applying considerable scrutiny to the PeaceWorks column.

Executive Editor John Swinconeck took particular issue with an article written by Gagnon, who began a hunger strike in protest of BIW last month, titled, “The Tragedy of Corporate Welfare in Maine.”

These were Swinconeck’s specific concerns:

  • Gagnon’s reference to conversations he had outside the BIW shipyard with unnamed workers not in favor of the tax bill. “I’m afraid we’re going into hearsay territory with this,” Swinconeck wrote in an email to a PeaceWorks member that Gagnon later sent around to supporters.
     
  • The use of a statistic saying 43,000 children in Maine live in poverty. “[W]here did that number come from?” Swinconeck wrote.
     
  • Gagnon’s suggestion that proponents of the tax deal have claimed BIW officials “might have to shut their doors and move” if the company doesn’t get a tax break. “Does he have a source for this?” the editor wrote.
     
  • And finally: “If Bruce hasn’t eaten since he went on hunger strike two weeks ago, how is he still able to demonstrate outside BIW?”

After reading Swinconeck’s comments and Gagnon’s piece, I got the sense Swinconeck did not come to the editing process with fair intentions.

To call descriptions of Gagnon’s conversations with Bath Iron Works employees hearsay is a stretch. Hearsay, as my handy dictionary says, means “rumor” or “information received from other people that one cannot adequately substantiate.”

Yes, it’s always better to have all names cited in an article. But, because Gagnon is the author and the person who spoke directly to the workers, I can’t help but wonder if Swinconeck is really concerned or if he’s just looking for any red flag. Gagnon’s articles have appeared many times in numerous publications, and all indications are he is an honest writer and not a fabricator.

I also can’t help but see a double standard here.

If BIW General Counsel Jon Fitzgerald, who’s been the public face of the company’s tax credit campaign, told lawmakers the company’s workers support the bill, would The Times Record call that hearsay and ban it from its pages? I doubt it.

Also, consider this: BIW brass have claimed bidding for Navy contracts between the Maine shipyard and Mississippi-based Ingalls Shipbuilding is more competitive today than ever before.

But has that claim been seriously examined by journalists? After following this story closely in local media, I’ve not seen evidence that a single reporter has called up a Navy procurement official for some context. So is the very crux of BIW’s case mere hearsay?

The 43,000 figure concerning the number of children in Maine living in poverty comes from the KIDS COUNT data center, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It covers the year 2016, and it’s easy to find online.

Swinconeck’s suggestion that BIW hasn’t said it could leave Maine if it doesn’t receive a tax break is another example of the editor stretching a reasonable interpretation in order to find a point of contention.

While it’s possible no one has explicitly said this in a public meeting, BIW officials have employed fear tactics and more than implied uncertainty would likely follow if the company did not receive a tax deal.

Furthermore: emails between Rep. Jennifer DeChant (D-Bath), the bill’s sponsor, and Jon Fitzgerald, the BIW lawyer, obtained through a Maine Freedom of Access Act request show the two discussed the prospect of a shipyard closure when determining their “talking points” to counter pushback from activists.

“Can you remind the shipyard that failed?” DeChant wrote in one email to Fitzgerald last December. “Where was it? What was it named?”

Lastly, Swinconeck clearly insults Gagnon when he questions the validity of the activist’s hunger strike. Gagnon has said he is subsisting on water, juices, and broth, which is common practice for someone on a hunger strike. To intimate he’s some kind of fake is a low blow.

In the end, Swinconeck decided to cancel the entire PeaceWorks column going forward. “I’ve been ruminating on this for a couple months,” Swinconeck wrote in an email to PeaceWorks member Rosalie Paul that was forwarded to me, “and I no longer feel as though Peaceworks’ interests and agenda are compatible with The Times Record’s mission.”

I emailed Swinconeck to see if he’d agree to an interview with me. He replied, “Thank you for the opportunity, but I’ll pass.”

It’s true that The Times Record has published well reported news articles by Nathan Strout that did strive for balance on the BIW debate, and it has run opinion pieces from activists. But “the optics,” as pundits like to say, look bad when a newspaper editor pulls the plug on an ongoing column by a prominent peace group in the middle of what’s arguably the most heated debate in Maine in years on a topic central to the cause of those activists.

The great irony is that, in the end, the Bangor Daily News, a paper with a much larger circulation, published Gagnon’s column.

Rep. Jennifer DeChant

Bruce Gagnon’s argument is incontrovertible when it comes to the Maine legislature and specifically Rep. Jennifer DeChant, who is sponsoring the proposal to award $60-million in tax credits to Bath Iron Works.

Emails turned over by the state show undeniable collaboration between DeChant and BIW General Counsel Jon Fitzgerald in hopes of countering the rising tide of resistance to their bill.

DeChant sought county-specific employment figures from BIW, including numbers for regions represented by two key lawmakers. DeChant even included the last names of these officials in her request to BIW. DeChant and Fitzgerald also discussed how to use BIW’s competitor, Ingalls Shipbuilding, and the subsidies it receives from Mississippi taxpayers as a lever to sway public opinion.

There is also every reason to believe DeChant allowed the company to write the bill on its own behalf.

“[H]appy to host a working lunch or whatever works for you,” Fitzgerald wrote to DeChant last December. “At that time, I will have the expanded list of city/town employment, a draft legislation, a multi-page listing of state, county and municipal assistance provided to Ingalls in Mississippi. It would be great to get specific on co-sponsors and any other details you require.”

DeChant was so willing to let Bath Iron Works take the lead that a consultant for the company, Daniel Walker of Preti Flaherty, offered to deliver a draft of the legislation to state officials for her.

“Jennifer, Attached please find the draft for submission to the Revisor’s Office,” Walker wrote in mid-December. “I’d be happy to submit if you’d like. If you submit, please let them know that we are working together on this legislation and that they should feel free to call or contact us with any questions.”

When I spoke to Bruce Gagnon by phone earlier this week, he seemed to have resigned himself to the fact that the Maine legislature and governor will approve LD1781, handing over $60-million over 20 years to BIW.

This week, legislators on the bicameral Taxation Committee voted eight to two in favor of the bill, clearing a “key hurdle,” as the Bangor Daily News put it, and sending the legislation on to the full legislature.

But, even if the bill ultimately becomes law, I still think Gagnon and other activists are victors here.

In the last three months, they’ve proven their case. Bath Iron Works and General Dynamics never did that. The activists have undeniably changed public opinion, and the company is on the defensive.

Jon Fitzgerald, Jennifer DeChant, and others didn’t have an answer when activists pointed out the grotesque amount General Dynamics has spent buying back its own stock on the open market in recent years, inflating its share price and likely enriching its top executives.

When General Dynamics acquired Bath Iron Works in 1995, the company spent $0 on share repurchases that year. In 1997, when BIW was awarded $194-million in tax breaks by Maine and the city of Bath, it spent $60-million, according to the UMass Lowell Center for Industrial Competitiveness.

Last year, it dedicated $1.5-billion to buybacks, the company announced in its most recent quarterly earnings call, and only around $200-million to employee pensions.

Since 2013, the year current CEO Phebe Novakovic became head of the company, General Dynamics has spent nearly $11-billion on stock buybacks.

Fitzgerald never wanted to address any of this, and the emails disclosed by the state of Maine show it.

“I am not going to oblige [Gagnon] and debate this with him on his terms,” Fitzgerald told DeChant in an email late last year.

Fitzgerald is smart. He knew better than to get into an argument he couldn’t win.

~ Alex Nunes is the journalist in Rhode Island that broke the General Dynamics stock buy backs story in the Providence Journal.  He also writes a blog called Nunes' Weekly.



Saturday, 10 March 2018
Day 27: Democracy drowned by the corporate agenda


graphic by Suzanna Lasker

We’ve now had 108 letters, Op-Eds, radio and public access TV interviews on 25 Maine media outlets opposing the GD corporate welfare bill. Not bad for a one-man band....

There were 17 of us folks at BIW this morning for the weekly Lenten vigil.  These vigils will continue for the next three Saturdays.  It was cold with cloudy skies and quite windy as it often is along the Kennebec River that runs through Bath.  We had our usual BIW security man following us as we moved from the administration building to the South gate where workers stream out when the noon horn blows.  I had one (thoughtful?) offer of a bag of chips if I wanted to eat.  Also one young guy gave me a kind word. Most workers looked at my sign - some smiling, others grimacing, many showing no emotion at all.

 

 


Photos by Peter Woodruff

Truth is I am hungry all the time - stomach growls.  But I just shrug it off - did the same when I quit smoking on my son Julian's first day of school.  He came home and told me that he had watched a movie about what smoking does to your lungs.  I knew in that moment I had to get real.  I handed him my cigarettes and said go throw them in the garbage.  Other than a handful of Cuban cigars I bought while in that country back in the 1990's - I've not smoked since then - excepting pot.

Like when I quit smoking, whenever I get real hungry, I just tell myself to move on in my mind.  And before I know it I am thinking about something else much more interesting.

My energy level still is fairly strong - I've been working long hours - but yesterday I hit the wall and had to rest more than before.  Today feels like it will be the same.

I've got a ride worked out with Regis Tremblay to get to Augusta on Tuesday at 9:30 am where I will stand with my sign on the capital's 3rd floor hallway between the House and Senate chambers.

Regis is working on a new video about the crumbling human and physical infrastructure of Maine at the same time that GD is demanding $60 million from our financially desperate state. GD has already taken more than $200 million from Maine since 1997.  They've also recently taken about $20 million from Rhode Island and are currently pushing hard to take $150 million from broken Connecticut.

GD has operations all over the world and is exploiting workers and communities everywhere they go.  This is the corporate ethic of our age - wage war to control resources for production, produce a lousy product, extract as much as possible from labor, destroy the environment, demand tax breaks from the local communities that the 'corporate entity' graces with its mere presence.

Democracy has been drowned by the corporate agenda.  Our survival is at stake.  We might not win the struggle on this particular, or another, issue but I feel I must fight as long as I can draw breathe.   My son's future is at stake, all life on the planet in some way is at risk.  What could be more important in this moment than to give one's energy towards ensuring the survival of the people.

Nothing brings me more joy.
 



Sunday, 11 March 2018
Day 28: Biggest union at BIW votes 'Not to endorse' GD welfare bill

The Free Press out of Rockland, Maine is the first to report that the S6 (Machinists) union at BIW voted last week not to endorse the GD/BIW corporate welfare bill known as LD 1781.  This is big news as the sponsors of the bill (the leadership of Democrat and Republican parties in Augusta) have long maintained that they were doing this bill on behalf of the workers.

It now appears that significant numbers of workers at the shipyard don't agree that GD needs $60 million from the state of Maine.

We've been told that S6 held a general membership meeting where about 100 workers turned up to vote on whether to support the controversial GD corporate welfare bill.  We heard it was a close vote but the union decided not to endorse.

Previously we heard from a reliable union source that one of the Machinists at BIW had read the front page story called Ship of Fools in The Bollard publication out of Portland.  As a result the worker began educating others in the union about GD's buybacks of $14.4 billion of their own stocks between 2009-2017 and the $21 million in salary for GD's CEO in 2016.

It appears that the rumblings among the workers was enough for S6 to sit this one out.  S6 is the largest of four unions at BIW.

Where is the outrage from the 'progressives' on GD corporate welfare?

Fellow activist Lisa Savage from Solon, Maine has written a deeply moving blog post today entitled The Shame Of Underfunding Education To Make Fat Cats Even Fatter.

Lisa, a leader in our statewide campaign to oppose the General Dynamics corporate welfare bill now being considered at our state capital in Augusta, is a school teacher in one of the most rural and poverty stricken regions of Maine.

In her post today she writes:

In my tiny, very poor school district our annual budget is roughly $11 million. The superintendent let the board know recently that, due to a shortfall in the contribution from the state for school year '18-19, we need to cut the budget by around $750,000 in order to keep local taxes from going through the roof.

My district has precious little for a tax base besides residential. A few of our towns have a couple of businesses that employ people full time like a wooden flooring mill and a concrete supplier; the town my little preK-5 school is in has a store, a laundromat, two diners, a nail salon and...that's about it.

Last week two teachers came to the principal in tears. A Kindergarten student had announced that she would be unable to come to school the following day because her dad had to work to get money to buy the family some food. Her classroom teacher had told me back in the fall that she thought the child's family suffered from food insecurity. We can address this problem for preK-12 because our district is poor enough to qualify for federal aid that feeds everyone who wants it breakfast and lunch every day.

Another 1st grader has been living all winter in a trailer with a roof that leaks. Her mom has told the teacher the children will be leaving our school soon as they have a chance to move in with an uncle who has a place to live in another town.

General Dynamics, on the other hand, pays its CEO $21 million a year. It has spent $9 billion buying back its own stocks to build value in the shares its top executives receive fat bonuses for increasing. And things are about to get even better: CEO Novakovich recently told shareholders in a conference call that she regarded the federal tax bonanza for wealthy corporations as "a happy event."

The Maine People's Alliance, a lobbying group for Democrats in Maine, has declined to come out against the bill even though they supposedly stand for funding social needs. Their former executive Ryan Tipping now co-chairs the taxation committee, and he voted ought to pass last week after describing how squeamish he was at doing so. 

Thanks for your truth telling Lisa.  This is exactly why I continue my hunger strike - in solidarity with those living in poverty and neglect across this state.  The children who go to school hungry and those tens of thousands in Maine with no health care need all our voices of solidarity badly right now.

Where are the voices of the liberal Democrats - either the grassroots or the elected officials from that party?  Why are the vast majority of the 'progressive groups' in our state - who claim to represent poor people - virtually silent on LD 1781?  Is it because they fear going up against the military industrial complex and have been told by party leadership to sit this one out?

It's what I would call half-stepping - these same liberal groups and politicians in Maine howled in outrage when our Republican Sen. Susan Collins voted in favor of Trump's federal tax cut bill in Washington that cut the tax rate of General Dynamics from 35 to 19 percent.  But when a similar bill (on a smaller scale) comes before our own state legislature we hear not a mumbling word from the vast majority of them?  Why?

It's not acceptable to take a pass when one of the biggest weapons makers on the planet steals $60 million from a state that has people suffering in poverty.  It is not the job of Maine, or any other city or state, to fund the military industrial complex.



Monday, 12 March 2018
Day 29: Maine Taxation Committee trims GD/BIW corporate welfare request by 25%

Last Tuesday (March 6) Maine's state legislative Taxation Committee held its final Work Session on LD 1781 - the corporate welfare bill for General Dynamics (GD).

We were shut out of the meeting as BIW workers were bused in two hours prior to the start in order to fill all the seats keeping everyone else out.  So several of us sat in the hallway while others went into a room across the hall where the hearing was piped in.

Most of the hearing was the sausage making process of talking about amended language to the bill.  In the end committee members voted 9-2 'Ought to pass' which in Maine is a recommendation to the full legislature in favor of the bill.

It was only the next day that we heard that the Taxation Committee actually had cut the requested $60 million corporate subsidy bill by 25% to $45 million over 15 years instead of the original 20 year period.

Committee co-chair Rep. Ryan Tipping (D-Orono) wrote one of his constituents the following:

In response to your question, both major papers got it wrong. The last series of amendments articulated by Rep. Grant shortened the program by five years and left the same dollar per year cap in place. The total amount, barring acceleration due to massive new hiring, is $45mil. Still a hefty price tag.
RT

Just to make sure I sent an email to a reporter from the Portland Press Herald who sat through the entire committee work session and wrote a story saying that the $60 million bill has passed the committee by the 9-2 vote.  I wondered if he had heard of the cut to $45 million.  This is what he wrote back to me:

That certainly wasn’t what I thought they were voting on. And if it’s true then they did an absolutely horrible job of sharing with the public what, exactly, they were voting on.

I’ll see what I can find out. Thank you very much for letting me know. Obviously there are a bunch more votes still to come on this.

I've yet to hear back from that reporter.

But then yesterday we saw that The Free Press newspaper out of Rockland, Maine (which many people say is the best newspaper in the state) carried an article by its editor Andy O'Brien (a former state legislator) that reported:

The Legislature’s Taxation Committee voted 9-2 Tuesday to deliver a controversial $45 million tax break to Bath Iron Works. LD 1781 would provide the company with $3 million in tax incentives per year over the next 15 years on the condition that it keeps current employment levels and invests at least $200 million in the shipyard. The amended bill marks a decrease of $15 million from the original version, which would have renewed the 20-year, $60 million Shipbuilding Tax Credit enacted in 1997. The measure will now go to the House and Senate for a vote.

So it is now clear to us that two big things have happened during our statewide campaign to oppose this GD corporate welfare bill here in Maine.  First, the largest of four unions at BIW (local S6 Machinists) has declined to endorse the bill which is a huge public relations blow to BIW/GD.  Secondly the Taxation Committee rather quietly, and still largely unnoticed, has cut the bill by 25%.

This indicates that this campaign has in fact created major citizen opposition across the state and has forced these initial changes.  But we are not going to rest on our laurels.  We are going to press on hard to knock out the whole corporate subsidy bill.  That means we need Mainers to pile on now and help us push this bad piece of legislation over the cliff.  You can show your support by clicking here

In 2013 BIW/GD came to the City of Bath and requested a tax break in the amount of $6.7 million from our very poor city.  About six of us ran a city-wide campaign, including going door-to-door, and resident outrage forced the reluctant city council to cut the request in half.  If the citizens of Bath (who live alongside BIW) can do that then the state of Maine can say NO as well.

We've got hugely neglected issues in this state that need that $45 million - which is peanuts to GD.  So full steam ahead.



Tue
sday, 13 March 2018
Day 30: Solidarity forever ....

It is all we have
solidarity
and love
and good spirit
shared widely
with those
suffering
from the greed
and domination
that comes
from
this toxic
system

The hunger
the sadness
the discarded ones
the superfluous ones
forgotten and neglected
by those
who count $$$
while we count
the lives
of those lost
needlessly

We count
the bombs falling
on the innocents
and the weapons
produced
and shared
a global
marketing strategy
to spread war
and make money
from the carnage

it is cynical
and evil
and we must
say
stop now
we won't pay for it
any longer

Bruce



Wednesday, 14 March 2018
Day 31: Heading back to Augusta in the morning


We will be returning to the state capital in Augusta at 9:30 am tomorrow.  We've had two days in a row of snow cancellations across Maine.  It's been a rough patch of weather.

We'll hold signs and hand out flyers on the 3rd floor of the capital building between the House and Senate chambers while they are in session.

We've also announced a news conference there on the 3rd floor for 11:00 am.  We'd like to provide the media with our reactions to the Taxation Committee cutting the proposed corporate tax break to General Dynamics by 25% to $45 million over 15 years.  We remain opposed to the bill in its entirety.

Secondly we'd like to comment on the story about the S6 (Machinists) union at BIW declining to endorse the bill.  That is a big deal and we've yet to see it covered by Maine media with the exception of The Free Press out of Rockland.  I wonder why it is being ignored?

Last night I dreamt about food - various kinds of lovely pizza.  My energy level is dropping still and my head continues to get a bit fuzzier each day.  I'm still drinking water with lemon, fruit juices, broth, and fruit smoothies made for me by MB.  I've lost over 16 pounds but our scale does not work so well.  My arms and legs have gotten quite thin.

The best thing about this hunger strike is that it has given me the feeling of serenity I've needed to get through this very intense campaign which has now lasted for two months.

I'm truly grateful for all the Mainers who have worked so hard to make this a successful effort.  It's not over yet - we'll give it all we have until the end.
 



Thursday, 15 March 2018
Day 32: Speaking out against corporate welfare in Augusta


Video by Regis Tremblay

Thanks to Bob Klotz for suggesting we do the news conference and helping to organize it.

Holding vigil against this 'bad bill' inside the capital


Photo by Regis Tremblay

We had about 17 of us this morning in the 3rd floor capital hallway between the House and Senate chambers in Augusta.  Even Darth Vader made an appearance holding a sign that declared his love for LD 1781 - the corporate welfare bill for General Dynamics.

We held a news conference at 11:00 am and got an interview on TV CH 8 and a call later from The Forecaster newspaper.  The MunjoyHillNews.com also covered us and Carol McCracken who runs that site said she has been getting excellent responses in Portland to her recent reporting on this campaign.  Our two alternative media cameramen/filmmakers Peter Woodruff (retired BIW worker) and Regis Tremblay also covered the event and will make a video report which I will post on the blog.

I really felt the power of our presence in the capital hallway today.  I am convinced that it is forcing this bill to stay front and center in their consciousness as the legislature faces massive human and infrastructure funding needs this year in Maine. They all know that GD does not need our feeble $45 million but they clearly understand that our state desperately needs these funds.  These elected officials need to be reminded by every Maine citizen to vote against this 'bad bill'.  So keep your calls and emails going to your legislators.  And please get friends, neighbors and relatives to do the same.

As of today we've had 118 letters, Op-Eds, radio and TV interviews in 25 Maine media outlets.  (There is a good chance we've missed a few as well.)  Your letters need to continue now more than ever.  The bigger papers are saying they've covered this issue widely on their editorial pages and are slowing down the placement of your letters.

Thus it's time to send letters to the weeklies.  Often times we don't think to prioritize the weeklies but that is a strategic mistake.  Many people long ago stopped subscribing to the daily papers to save money and pick up the weeklies for their news.  Some of the weeklies have larger distribution than the daily papers.

Quaker activist Leslie Manning stood next to me in the hallway holding a sign.  She knows most of the Democratic party legislators and got hugs from many of them.  I asked her to share a few observations from the day.  Here they are:

I was very encouraged by the response to your witness that I saw today in Augusta.  Despite what we are told, most of our friends and neighbors who serve in our legislature do want to make things better and have a hard time holding their noses and voting for a bad bill.  Regardless of party, there are many up there who oppose crony capitalism (as the R's call it) or inequitable distribution of wealth (the D's).  If they engage with each other, they comprise a majority.  I hope that continued communications from their constituents will bring them together to vote against the  GD tax giveaway.  You still can't put lipstick on this pig and call it pretty.  Preti, [Flaherty] perhaps, but not pretty.

How ironic that when the give-a-way bill was first heard, we observed the Maine DOT ask for $60 million in taxes to address the overdue infrastructure needs of our large, poor, rural state.  Today's irony at Taxation Committee was the hearing scheduled for the Gov's "tax conformity" bill.  He is seeking to make Maine tax code mimic the US Congress giveaway to the rich and the corporations at the expense of the rest of us, especially our most vulnerable.  It's "do as I say, not as I do" time for the D's; pulling out all the stops to oppose the Trump, Too Tax Code while handing out the same to GD.

But it doesn't have to be this "race to the bottom".  Keep the pressure on, keep the cards, emails and LTE's coming--make our representatives do the right thing, because it is the right thing - for Maine, her people and our democracy.  Solidarity then, solidarity now and solidarity forever.

Leslie

I will return to stand in the hallway at the capital next Tuesday (March 20) and Thursday (March 22) from 9:30 am to noon - weather permitting.

Let's keep it rolling....it's for a good cause.



Fri
day, 16 March 2018
Day 33: Incredible Letter to Editor by BIW Worker

In Support of Activists and the First Amendment
Times Record Letters (Brunswick)
http://www.timesrecord.com/news/2018-03-16/Opinion/LETTERS.html


Today’s lesson (and it is a hard one): I have worked at BIW since 1986 and I love my job, but I worry about its future. People worry about their jobs and worry about the future of our state and the world in general. And all I want to say is we have to be prepared to listen, really listen to each other. And educate ourselves, there is always more than one side to a story. And to let ALL sides speak about their fears, hopes, and expectations. To be open to other opportunities that present themselves, we do not have to be only a ship building company, there’s a brand new world out there and we should not be afraid to experience it.

Thanks to Bruce and company. You’re good people.

Patricia Messier,
Wiscasset

We need to build Unity and Solidarity


Christine DeTroy from PeaceWorks in Brunswick shows the misleading headline in local paper. Makes it sound like the fight is over - it's not. The local paper has been outsourced to BIW/GD. Just last week the editor of the paper cancelled a twice a month Op-Ed that Peaceworks had for the past three years - done in reaction to the campaign to stop GD corporate welfare bill in Augusta. (Photo by Martha Spiess)

  • A lot of people are asking me if I think the US is trying to start a war with Russia.  I respond that the US and NATO want regime change in Moscow and Beijing.  And our government is greedy enough, deceitful enough, desperate enough and vicious enough to go to war to try to reach that end.  It's pure insanity to even consider the thought.
     
  • All this daily - non-stop - demonization of Putin and Russia should be familiar.  It is the modus operandi (MO) of a killer nation.  We heard the same story in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen.  Demonization and then attack.  The US and NATO are willing to go to war for control of everything and everyone on this planet. It is arrogance and evil wrapped into one package.
     
  • I did an interview with Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers today on their podcast show called Clearing the Fog at PopularResistance.org  We talked about our campaign going on in Maine and they asked what kind of product should be built at BIW.  I responded as I always do that our biggest problem in the world today is climate change.  Our weather here is all messed up like most places around the globe.  We've long been calling for the conversion of Bath Iron Works to build commuter rail systems, offshore wind turbines and tidal power systems.  We have a short chance to have some impact on global warming - but the public must become vocal now rather than resigning themselves to no human future on Earth.
     
  • Due to Trump's 'Space Force' announcement I've done some radio interviews in the last few days.  Last year the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill to create a separate military service just for space.  The Senate voted the bill down in Washington.  The Air Force is opposed to the idea - they want to control the seamless web between the Earth and deep space.  The aerospace industry sees big opportunity for profit by expanding military space operations and has much influence on Capital Hill.  They are strongly pushing the bill and likely got to Trump.
     
  • The Pentagon has been saying for many years that Star Wars will be the most expensive industrial project in human history.  There will be no money for anything else.  That is why we see them going after Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid these days.  They have to defund virtually everything in order to pay for the new arms race in space.  We've got to show how one issue here is linked to the other - the deadly connections  Many organizers stay in their silos and don't share the full picture with the public.  A big organizing mistake.  We need to build unity and solidarity.
     
  • Tomorrow is the weekly Lenten vigil at BIW just down the street from here at 11:30 am.  People from around the state gather and hold signs calling for disarmament, human needs and conversion of BIW to sustainable technology. Studies show we'd get more jobs at places like BIW if we built anything other than weapons.  Military spending is capital intensive.  Every other kind of production is labor intensive. The Pentagon says that America's role in the world today is 'security export'. That means endless war.  You are the citizen - you decide which way things should go.


Saturday, 17 March 2018
Day 34: Lenten Vigil at BIW

We arrived early this morning at the gates of Camp Schwab at Henoko.  We held the great banner made by fellow Mainer Russel Wray (Hancock) as GI’s and Okinawan civilian employees began arriving for work.  The line of cars was long so entering the base was slow going which made it possible for the car drivers to get a good look at the banner.

 

 

   

 

Photos by Peter Woodruff (retired BIW worker)

Bob Klotz rode his bicycle to BIW again from South Portland against a heavy wind and extreme cold.  It took him about four hours.  That is commitment.

Others are Fasting to Stop GD Welfare Bill

 
Vietnam veteran Tom Ryan from Oquossoc, Maine is fasting in solidarity to defeat the GD corporate welfare bill.  As of today he has not eaten for the past 13 days and vows to continue until the bill is voted on by the entire legislature.  On Thursday while in Augusta standing between the two legislative chambers he said, "I joined the service to make this country better.  Our taxes need to go for human welfare – not for corporate welfare. I will continue to fast until this is over."

Mary Kate Small (Camden) has been keeping a schedule of Mainers and others from away who are fasting in solidarity with our efforts to defeat this bad bill in Augusta (LD 1781). She has recorded that at least 30 others have gone without food for a day or more since February 12 when I started my hunger strike.

On February 12 Boryana Tacconi (Andover, Massachusetts) heard I was beginning the hunger strike and joined me for the first 20 days.  Yesterday we received a message from Jeju Island, South Korea where artist and peace activist Choi Sung-Hee wrote that she would fast next Tuesday (March 20) and Thursday (March 22) when I return to the state capital to again stand against this corporate give-away.  Regina Pyon from Seoul will also fast on March 20.

Mary Kate informs us that she has fasters all over Maine scheduled through the end of March and beyond if needed.

I thank all of those who have gone without food as we all stand in complete solidarity with the 43,000 children across our poor state who live in poverty.  If the elected officials in Augusta won't stand up and fight for the kids against this mega-rich corporation that had $3 billion in profits last year then we surely must.

And we will continue to daily do every thing we can to defeat LD 1781.  Keep these dollars in Maine for the huge needs that are currently going unmet because of lack of funds.

GD don't need our money.  They already get boatloads of it from the federal government in their Navy contracts to build destroyers at BIW.



Su
nday, 18 March 2018
Day 35: Let's Build for the Future

Sub-headline: Moving from solitary anger to collective strength

Let's build
sky scrapers to the sky?
rockets to Mars?
more warships?
how about
a sustainable future?
for the kids....

Let's build unity
amongst the people

people rage
because they feel
forgotten
discounted
marginalized
left behind

Let's build solidarity
caring for
one another
supporting
one another
setting political party
aside
what comes first
truth,
justice,
collective needs
leave no one behind

Let's build
stronger hearts
deeper love
forgiving spirits

Let's learn
honest reflection
of self
and current events
sorting through
truth
and
BS

Let's try
another way
than we've been
mind-washed
to believe

My Sunday prayer....

Bruce



Monday, 19 March 2018
Day 36: Media Day and prep to return to Augusta

Margaret Flowers & Kevin Zeese (Popular Resistance) interview me about the Maine campaign to oppose corporate welfare.....

Our radio ad was recorded today by Regis Tremblay and will run on WGAN (popular political radio talk show station out of South Portland) from March 20-26.....thanks to Maine Veterans For Peace for helping to pay for it!

You can hear the advert (which will run 24 times) by clicking here

I, and others, will be heading back to the state capital in Augusta tomorrow (Tuesday) to stand with signs in the hallway between the House and Senate chambers from 9:30 am until noon.

We need to get more Mainers to send messages to their state legislators ASAP.  Please help us by reaching out to friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers and ask them to click on this link that sends a message directly to their state representative and senator - click here

We are coming down to the wire....let's finish strong.



Tuesday, 20 March 2018
Day 37: Back to Augusta & Ending Hunger Strike

We had sixteen of us this morning with signs inside the 'lobbyist staging area' on the 3rd floor of the capital between the House and Senate chambers.

Lots of kids were there from various schools across the state so they got a real lesson in 'democracy'.  One of the teachers made an interested young girl return our flyer to us - not allowed in her school we supposed.

Our group - very ordinary Mainers - seemed to change the vibe in the hallway and many of us remarked that we felt a discernible shift in the attitude of many of the legislators toward us.  Several stopped to tell us they are with us - including a kind Republican legislator who has told me this three times.

A state senator from the Brunswick area told one of his constituents in our group that he has received more contact on LD 1781 than any other issue since he has been in office.  So you are getting their attention - don't stop now!

 

My own state senator - one of the sponsors of the bill - approached and told me that "We need you all here."  I took it as a compliment of the campaign's effectiveness.

This afternoon from 4:00-5:00 pm the community radio station WERU in East Orland (almost three hours north of Bath) had several of us from the campaign on the air to discuss the GD corporate welfare bill.  Host Amy Browne did an excellent job of weaving Lawrence Reichard, Alex Nunes, Lisa Savage, Bob Klotz, Jessica Stewart and myself into the discussion.

 

We covered most of the key points but VFP member Peter Morgan wrote me after the show and said he was standing by to call in and wanted to say, "BIW has refused to [prove] a financial justification for their [request] for financial assistance."  But they took no calls today since there were so many of us on the show.

Last night I woke in the middle of the night feeling dizzy and way out of sorts.  MB got me some juice but I didn't sleep well after that.  My body was talking to me - quite loudly.

So today I consulted with one of my medical advisers (Bob Klotz) and determined that I would end my hunger strike on this 37th day.  Others will continue the solidarity fast under the steady coordination of Mary Kate Small.  Our friend Tom Ryan continues his fasting now into the 15th day or so and he will go until day 20.

We also got confirmation that our advert began today on WGAN radio in southern Maine.  It will run for a week - four times a day.  One of our friends actually heard it on the air.

We feel like we have done well but need a strong surge as we near the end of this campaign.  Our biggest need is to get more new folks to contact their state legislators about their opposition to LD 1781.  We are asking all of our supporters to find five new folks who have not yet called and have them contact their representatives in Augusta.  We offer this handy tool and thank David Swanson for putting this effective vehicle in our hands.  See it here

So I will reenter the eating world slowly and mindfully - experts say at least four days are needed to do this.

I will return to the 3rd floor corridor with my sign on Thursday at 9:30 am and then again next week on Tuesday and Thursday.

In the meantime I am giving my heart and soul to defeating this bad bill.

Bruce

Photos by Peter Woodruff (retired BIW worker)



Wednesday, 21 March 2018
Day 38: The first bite ...


 


Monday, 26 March 2018
Catching up from Bath ...
  • It's been a pretty intense time since I ended the hunger strike early last week.  The next day MB drove me north to Belfast where I spoke to 32 local folks about Korea and the US pivot to the Asia-Pacific.

  • Before I started my talk though we shared information about LD 1781, the BIW/GD corporate welfare bill now stuck somewhere in the halls of the legislature in Augusta.  Their state representative from Belfast is the Democrat majority leader in the House.  At the beginning of the campaign she leaned toward supporting the bill but the excellent solidarity in Belfast moved their representative to a NO vote on the bill.  Now on some level Democratic party leadership is split on the bill.  At the same time growing numbers of people across the state, as they hear about the bill, are against it.
     
  • We did have a flurry of media as my hunger strike ended.  One article about the controversial bill and my fasting was first carried on the front page of The Forecaster newspaper.  It then was reprinted in the Portland and Waterville papers.  Maine Public radio interviewed me and a short story about the hunger strike ending was heard several times on statewide news reports. (During this entire campaign we've had 150 letters to editors, Op-Eds, articles, radio and TV interviews on 30 different Maine media outlets.)
     
  • It appears that the House will vote on the bill on Tuesday so we will return to the 3rd floor of the capital from 9:30 am to noon.

 

  • On Saturday we had the Lenten vigil in Bath.  The crowd was a bit smaller this time as quite a few folks attended March For Our Lives events in Portland or near their homes.  (Photos by Roger Leisner and you can see more photos here)

 
 

  • After the vigil MB, Karen and I went to a memorial service for our dear friend Sally Breen who died recently after a long and valiant struggle against cancer.  Sally was one of the very first people to welcome MB and me to Maine and took us in for a week in the winter of 2002 so we could get a feel for the cold.  She was a dedicated anti-nuclear activist with a heart as big as the sky.

 

  • Yesterday, thanks to a tip from Jacqui Deveneau, MB and I went to Portland to catch a great movie called Neither Wolf Nor Dog.  It is a story about an old Lakota man who recruits a reluctant white writer to help him share his wisdom and the story of his people in a book.  See the trailer here
  • I've put on about three pounds so far - took the food reentry path rather slowly not to overload my body at once.  But as a result my energy recovery is also slow.  I want to be able to go, go, go but not possible.  So I took to sewing - repairing a few items - just threading the needle takes me awhile - it's a good rest.


Tuesday, 27 March 2018
House votes Yes on GD corporate welfare - to the Senate tomorrow

The Maine House of Representatives voted 117-31 today in favor of the GD corporate welfare bill.

The capital was a mad house as the AFL-CIO had their lobby day as did the Medicaid Expansion supporters.  BIW bused in a number of workers (paid to attend) who lined both sides of the entrance to the House chambers.

 
Photos by Peter Woodruff (retired BIW worker)

We had twenty of our supporters there who spread out - handed out flyers - and talked to BIW workers and others inside the packed hallway.

 

One BIW worker from the S6 union approached me to thank us for our efforts.  He told me he was at the union meeting where they voted not to endorse the bill and that he had voted NO.  He didn't believe GD needed Maine's meager funds.  

We learned there was some confusion inside the Democratic party about how the unions at BIW had voted. We got word to Rep. Denise Harlow (I-Portland) who during debate on the bill asked for clarification on the union endorsement question.  Rep. Janice Cooper (D-Yarmouth) stood up and said that one of the four unions at the shipyard voted in favor of the bill (S7 with 500 members) while the largest union (S6 with 3,500 members) voted not to endorse.  Cooper also spoke against the bill, saying, "The Taxation Committee asked BIW for their financials to prove they actually need the support but they refused to provide them to us."

Rep. Harlow also said from the House floor that the bill was "akin to corporate welfare."

 

Three Republicans voted against the bill while one Democrat (Rep. Alley) who told me three times he was voting against it actually voted in favor of it.  You can see how they all voted here

Once the House was in session we, along with BIW workers and others from the public, watched the show from the 4th floor public gallery that overlooks the House floor.  

Rep. Ralph Chapman (G-Blue Hill) was actually the first to speak about the bill and said, "We have a shameless request from General Dynamics".

     

BIW/GD had to crush us today in the House and they paid lobbyists affiliated with the Democrats to put the whole strategy into operation.  They used every trick in the book because they could not allow any organization - any group of citizens - to stand up against the corporate power of GD.

It's a new America where the federal, state and municipal budgets must be surrendered to corporate power on demand - even those corporations from the military industrial complex.

Eisenhower's warning has been smashed on the rocky coast of Maine.

I got a request from one Maine newspaper for a comment on the vote today.  I wrote back:  We thank all those who helped build this important campaign to stand against corporate welfare and in support of the many human needs that are going unmet across Maine.  We will not ever shirk from continuing to fight for the people who have been cast aside by our state legislature. 

Tomorrow the Maine Senate will vote on the bill.  We'll be back in the 3rd floor hallway from 9:30 am to noon with our signs and flyers.

Every time we go to Augusta more citizens learn about this GD corporate welfare bill.
 


Wednesday, 28 March 2018
Another stake through the heart of justice - Senate votes yes on GD corporate welfare bill

This morning I was the first of the 'citizen lobbyists' to arrive outside the doors of the Maine Senate.  Soon enough 14 'admin and management' employees from BIW arrived - one of them admitted that they were all being paid to be there.

Thirteen more of our folks arrived as well so it was even representation by both sides of the issue - that is if you don't count all the paid lobbyists that BIW/GD hired. I counted at least 4-5 of them.  Their job was to make sure things went right - and they did as the Senate voted 25-9 in favor of the GD corporate welfare bill.  You can see how they all voted (one Republican voted No and eight Democrats voted Yes) here

 

One of our folks noticed BIW V-P John Fitzgerald having harsh words with Sen. Brownie Carson (D-Harpswell) outside of the Senate chambers before things got started.  The argument seemed to have worked on Carson who won the award for the best argument against the bill but then did a backwards flip and voted for it anyway - so he additionally won the spineless prize....more on him in a bit.

Sen. Justin Chenette (D-Saco) called the GD bill "a bit like highway robbery."

Long time Maine environmentalist Sen. Brownie Carson (D-Harpswell) did a back flip after saying Maine couldn't afford the bill but then stated he'd vote for it anyway.

My state Sen. Eloise Vitelli (D-Arrowsic) was the first to speak in favor of the bill that she co-sponsored by saying it was a "jobs bill" and the money would be used for "training workers".  She admitted that BIW was "not likely to close over night without this tax credit" but like many others fell for the notion that the taxpayers of Maine must help fund the military industrial complex.

Sen. Eric Brakey (R-Auburn) maintained that the give-a-way to General Dynamics was "not corporate welfare". (Other Republicans spoke in favor of the bill but I won't bore you with their tired theories about how giving tax breaks to big business creates more jobs.)

Sen. Justin Chenette (D-Saco) told his fellow senators that while serving on the Taxation Committee, that had responsibility for LD 1781, he asked BIW V-P Fitzgerald five times for financial information that would prove the company needed the support.  Fitzgerald repeatedly refused to do so.  Chenette asked, "How can we make informed decisions without the facts?  This feels a little bit like highway robbery."

Sen. Ben Chipman (D-Portland) argued against the bill and concluded that, "We could use this money to help alleviate poverty in Maine."

Then Sen. Carson did his amazing high-wire act - the first-half of which drew raves from our side.  He claimed the bill "Was not the highest and best use of our funds.  Hundreds of millions of dollars in requests are now sitting on the Appropriations Committee table for the many needs in Maine."  But then after an astounding double-reverse back flip (with a twist) Carson concluded with, "Despite serious reservations I will support LD 1781."

Imagine the head shaking that followed from us sitting in the public balcony.  

Fortunately there was a quick recovery as Sen. Geoff Gratwick (D-Bangor) spoke in opposition and outlined the key point that "Tax incentives do not promote economic growth.  Once you put a tax incentive in place it is virtually impossible to get rid of it."

Sen. Mike Carpenter (D-Houlton) surprised us with his strong anti-bill words when he said, "There is no suggestion this company needs our help. This company is exploding with money."

Sadly a big Bernie Sanders supporter, and Senate Democratic leader, Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) spoke twice in support of the bill maintaining it was about preserving good jobs in Maine.  As it turned out Jackson's adult son Chace was on the PretiFlaherty lobby team working in favor of the GD corporate welfare bill.

Actually I didn't expect we'd get more than five votes from the Maine Senate so nine was a pleasant surprise. 

This is the first time since moving to Maine I've gone through this kind of legislative process on any bill from start to finish.  I've attended some public hearings on bills in the past but this was a first to track a bill the entire way.  My work in the peace movement doesn't offer many opportunities to do this kind of thing at the state level.

What is so amazing to me though is to see weapons corporations establish as 'normal' the concept of going to states and cities (like Bath) for additional funding on top of what they get from the federal treasury to build weapons.  This is a very dangerous idea and is totally destabilizing to social progress.  We needed to push back hard against this and we did.

Throughout this campaign we've repeatedly heard about how the state of Mississippi annually gives BIW's competitor shipyard called Huntington Ingalls millions of dollars in subsidies as justification for Maine doing the same for BIW/GD.  But one legislator in the House remarked yesterday that we should be careful as Maine might very well become more like Mississippi than we bargained for as that poor southern state is at the bottom, or near bottom, in most social indicators.

It was in the original Taxation Committee work sessions on LD 1781 that Rep. Ryan Tipping (D-Orono) called the GD corporate welfare bill "a race to the bottom."  Like we saw Sen. Carson do today, speak against the bill and then vote for it, Rep. Tipping basically did the same.

LD 1781 was never meant to see the light of day.  This bad bill was supposed to sail through Augusta without a public whimper but the intervention of many Mainers of conscience changed that plan.  BIW/GD had to spend tens of thousands of dollars to hire PretiFlaherty to usher the bill through the legislature.

In the end public outcry forced the legislature to cut the original bill by 25% to $45 million - still far too much.  We showed that a determined group of citizens in Maine can stand up to the likes of GD and come away with $15 million in savings for the hard-pressed people of our state.

It was an honor to work alongside all of you who stood up for the 43,000 children living in poverty across Maine, for the tens of thousands without health care, for our starving public education system, and for the crumbling physical infrastructure as Maine joins Mississippi in the "race to the bottom".

I look forward to standing with you all again soon.


 


Sunday, 1 April 2018
Reflections on a hunger strike

I've had a request to share some words about my recent 37 day hunger strike.

I began the hunger strike on February 12, a few days after the first Taxation Committee work session on LD 1781.  I was laying in bed talking with MB and told her I had come back from Augusta so upset that I knew if I didn't calm down I was going to have a heart attack. I knew the bill would be slow moving through the halls of the capital so I needed to do something.

Twice in the past I fasted for two weeks in solidarity with a hunger strike by Yang Yoon-Mo from Jeju Island, South Korea and another time in solidarity with friends in the Czech Republic who were opposing a US missile defense radar.  I always felt serene while doing them.  So the decision was made largely for that reason - to stay focused, sane and calm during this campaign.

I also knew that as an organizing strategy hunger striking can draw others closer to the effort which is something we needed to do if we hoped to have any impact.  When I worked for the United Farm Workers Union from 1978-1980 I learned how Cesar Chavez used fasting to drive the UFW's boycotts of grapes and lettuce across the nation.

When I first signed on to work with the UFW in Florida organizing fruit pickers I was sent to the union's headquarters in Keene, California for a month along with three other new staffers from Florida.  Cesar Chavez took an active role in our training while we were at La Paz and I've always remembered something he told us late one evening while in his office.

Cesar said, "We know our union is weak and that the agribusiness corporations know that the union is weak.  But none of that matters.  The only thing that matters is what does the public think about the way that farm workers are treated by the industry."  He said, we can beat them if we work hard at getting the public to listen to us and take our side in organizing campaigns against the corporations.

So it was the same with the bad corporate welfare bill for General Dynamics.

We didn't make threats or boasts that we could not deliver on.  We understood that the mainstream media would be reluctant to give us any coverage because of the power of BIW/GD.  So we had to find a way to get around the media blockage to reach the public.  We also knew that some number of workers at BIW were not happy with GD because of their last contract.  So that is where we began.

Another factor we discovered early on was that we were isolated within the 'progressive community' because of the fact that the bill was being sponsored and promoted by the Democratic party leadership.  Thus many liberal Democrats in Maine (including their activist groups like AFL-CIO, Maine People's Alliance, liberal churches and many environmental groups) were frozen because they would not go up against the Democrat's leadership. 

Instead we had to rely on the strong and widespread network of peace activists across Maine.  Because of our numerous peace walks over the years through the state we had friends from Presque Isle to Kittery - from Rangeley to Bath.  We reached out to all these folks and they began writing letters to local newspapers and before long others that we did not even know also began to write. (In the end we had at least 175 letters, Op-Eds, interviews, and articles in 35 different media outlets across Maine.  The letters to the editor are what really drove the issue home to the public and opened the door to other media.)

During the first two weeks of my hunger strike I went to BIW during the noon hour and at the 3:30 pm shift change to stand with my sign and hand out flyers.  Especially during lunch time I spoke with quite a few workers and began to hear their stories of frustration with GD.  As I started to weaken around the third week I stopped going to BIW at noon and just did the end of day shift change.  I noticed how at first some workers made snide comments but over time they became more subdued and respectful.  When I missed a day because I had to go to Augusta for another Taxation Committee work session some workers asked where I had been once I returned.  (Just yesterday when we were at BIW for the Lenten vigil during the noon shift change I saw one worker filming me with his phone as he walked out of the shipyard and heard him say, "This is the hunger striker" so I am certain that they were discussing my personal action as well as the bad bill during work hours.)

Along the way more than 30 others joined the hunger strike by fasting for a day or more.  Tom Ryan from Oquossoc fasted for 20 days and was a regular with us during the home stretch when we were spending so much time inside the state capital with our signs.

During the last two weeks of the hunger strike I stopped going to BIW because we were spending so much time in Augusta and I didn't have enough strength to do both.


People are surprised to hear that after the first week it was pretty easy for me to go without food.  MB kept me supplied with various fruit juices and fruit smoothies (twice a day) and friends were bringing me carrot juice and broths.  MB says I never got grumpy (I felt like I had one bad day during the hunger strike where I was impatient and such) but otherwise I was feeding on the collective spirit and energy of friends and supporters who were doing so much to help.  I was even amazed that after being in Augusta all day that when I came home I was eager to sit at the computer and blog about the day.


In the end our collective efforts made it possible for many in the public to consider taking a position against the powerful interests of BIW/GD.  We are increasingly finding in the US that the corporate agenda is dominating politics at the national, state and local levels.  We can't defeat that kind of power in one fell swoop so we have to be strategic about when and how we take these powers on.  I think our effort in Maine worked well for us - especially considering our weakness as compared to the money, political influence, and media power of BIW/GD.

I can't say enough how much I loved and appreciated the selfless efforts by so many Mainers who threw in with us on this campaign.  Thanks to all of you.

Determination and good spirit can take us a long way even when the odds are solidly against us.  We helped save Mainers $15 million (which isn't much to corporations like GD but to a struggling state like ours it is alot of money).

Keep the fires burning and always remember the most important job of a human being is to protect the future generations - our children, the animals, the plants, the waters, the air, the sacred lands.  Nothing could be more important especially as we increasingly face the coming ravages of climate change.

We've all got to find more courage to stand for what is right.  

Bruce
 



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