Thursday, March 8, 2018

Going All 15 Rounds Doing Rope-a-Dope Against Corporate Welfare For General Dynamics

It's mud season in Maine and the potholes are getting wicked bad. (Thanks to Andrew Watkins for this graphic.)

The legislature is looking for $60 million to fix roads and bridges, and I think I know where they can find it.

Yes, the tax giveaway for General Dynamics that is headed to the floor passed the taxation committee with a compromise: $55 million over 20 years instead of $60 million.

Big wow.

Both major newspapers that reported on the vote got the amount wrong but it's not surprising considering the flurry of amendments cobbled together over the course of four work sessions on the bill. The amendments were designed to make the bill more palatable to legislators whose constituents are howling for an end to corporate welfare -- to date there have been 80 letters against the scheme in papers across Maine.

BIW bussed in scores of salaried employees to pack the taxation committee meeting room
hours in advance of the 1pm work session. Here they are seen leaving after the vote was taken.

Only about two opponents of the 27 present that day made it into the room with the rest sitting in the halls or kettled into the "overflow room."
That indicates to me the committee and BIW were nervous about a possible disturbance.

Two Democrats on the committee found the backbone to not only speak against the bill, but to vote "ought not to pass" this week. Mad props to Sen. Justin Chenette and Rep. Janice Cooper, also for asking hardball questions during the hearings and work sessions.

Other Democrats on the committee made a great show of squeamishness but then justified their vote in favor by saying General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works was threatening job loss or even closure if the bill did not pass. In Mark Roman's video above you can hear Rep. Ryan Tipping, the committee co-chair, weasling around to voting "yes" for a bill he characterized as "a race to the bottom."

Why a grown up would cave to a bully and admit it in public is beyond me, but then I don't like to be bullied and will vigorously resist lest the bully think I'm an easy target.

This brings me to the high velocity trolls trotted out to comment on Kevin Miller's coverage of the committee vote in the Portland Press Herald. Such paid commentators are distinguishable from regular Mainers whose politics are different from mine. Both groups' comments are characterized by the use of nasty invective and personal attacks, but the paid trolls can spell tricky words like "you're" correctly and they throw around right wing insults like "virtue signalling" even though its clear they don't know what the phrase actually means.

Someone, most likely BIW vice president John Fitzgerald, has also introduced the meme of doubting the veracity of Bruce Gagnon's now 25 day hunger strike against the tax giveaway bill.

The editor of the local paper, John Swinconeck of the Times Record, introduced this theme when he doubted that Gagnon could fast for a mere 10 days and still be capable of standing at the gates of BIW during the shift change each noon with leaflets.

Clearly editor Swinconeck doesn't know much about fasting or about Gagnon's tenacity (or experience with hunger strikes in the past). 

He used his ignorance of this and other pertinent facts -- for example, that there are 43,000 children in poverty in Maine according to the last U.S. Census -- as a pretext for refusing a scheduled op-ed by Gagnon. (Gagnon then submitted the rejected piece to the Bangor Daily News where it was published today.)

Then, Swinconeck followed up by canceling altogether the monthly widely-read column submitted by various members of Peaceworks of Greater Brunswick. I've submitted a few of those columns and am proud to have found myself among a group of thoughtful, intelligent and compassionate thinkers and writers. Rosie Paul's column in February, "An opportunity for choosing people over profit," will apparently be the last one published.

RIP freedom of the press. Corporate government and corporate media march ever more closely in step.

Gagnon encountered GD/BIW brass Fitzgerald outside BIW back on Day 3, and Fitzgerald yelled at him. He appeared to be angered by Gagnon's presence with supporters (in an email to bill co-sponsor and Bath rep Jennifer DeChant, Fitzgerald dismissed Gagnon as a "one man band"). On this day Gagnon made reference to a speech Fitzgerald's father, once president of BIW before it was owned by General Dynamics, made on Labor Day in 1994. Along with union officials, then Sen. George Mitchell and then President Bill Clinton, Fitzgerald called for conversion of the shipyard's huge industrial capacity to diversify from building nothing but weapons of mass destruction.

In the highly militarized, belligerent 21st Century, the need for conversion is an unwelcome truth.

And by the way, the largest union at GD/BIW -- Local S6 -- has declined to endorse LD 1781, the bill supporters claim is for the workers. The workers were recently bullied by GD/BIW to accept a contract with a four year salary freeze, and they are pissed about it.

In case you need a chuckle at this point, Gagnon sent me a report of his chance meeting after the vote on March 6:
On the way out the capitol building I ran into Fitzgerald who was talking to one of their lobbyists – I made two fists, danced around and hollered out like Ali – "We might be on the ropes, but we going all 15 rounds doing rope-a-dope – we still in this fight all the way – we doing the rope-a-dope and going all the way!"

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