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
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
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
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,
Any help you need with signage let me know. ~ Brown Lethem,
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,
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
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
of Fools: Tax Breaks for BIW, World War III for us. That pretty much said
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,
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
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:
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Past and ongoing state tax subsidies to GD/BIW total more than
$220 million. Maine taxpayers have already done enough for this corporate
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Message from grandmother to BIW corporate welfare bill
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
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
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.
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
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.
2/12 Bruce, Don Kimball
2/14 Bruce, Connie Jenkins
2/15 Bruce, Connie Jenkins
2/16 Bruce, Mary Kate Small
2/17 Bruce, Mary Kate Small
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
2/26 Bruce, Don Kimball, Connie Jenkins, Cynthia Howard, Richard Cate, Ken
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
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
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'
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.
Friday, 23 February 2018
Day 12: More letters in Maine papers and Solidarity from Jeju
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
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
You can contact your two local Maine legislators here
Sunday, 25 February 2018
Day 14: This Issue latest guest
Dear friend Mark Roman, woodworker from Solon, Maine, was my latest guest on
We discuss, of course, the $60 million corporate give-a-way bill for General
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
Over the years Maine has subsidized hundreds of corporate operations using
various mechanisms to hand over taxpayer dollars supposedly in return for more
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Monday, 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.
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Executive Editor, The Times Record
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.
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
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
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
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
~ Bruce K. Gagnon is a member of Veterans For Peace. He lives in Bath.
Thursday, 8 March 2018
Day 25: Portland public access TV interview - thanks to Brian
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.
Friday, 9 March 2018
Day 26: Maine Has Been 'Outsourced' to Bath Iron Works
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
~ Alex Nunes is the journalist in Rhode Island that broke the General
stock buy backs story in the Providence Journal. He also writes a blog
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
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
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
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
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?
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?
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Tuesday, 13 March 2018
Day 30: Solidarity forever ....
It is all we have
and good spirit
from the greed
the discarded ones
the superfluous ones
forgotten and neglected
who count $$$
while we count
of those lost
the bombs falling
on the innocents
and the weapons
to spread war
and make money
from the carnage
it is cynical
and we must
we won't pay for it
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
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
Holding vigil against this 'bad bill' inside the
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
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
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.
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.
Friday, 16 March 2018
Day 33: Incredible Letter to Editor by BIW Worker
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
Thanks to Bruce and company. You’re good people.
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
I did an interview with Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers today on their
podcast show called
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
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.
Sunday, 18 March 2018
Day 35: Let's Build for the Future
Sub-headline: Moving from solitary anger to collective
sky scrapers to the sky?
rockets to Mars?
a sustainable future?
for the kids....
Let's build unity
amongst the people
because they feel
Let's build solidarity
setting political party
what comes first
leave no one behind
and current events
than we've been
My Sunday prayer....
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Photos by Peter Woodruff (retired BIW
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.