Fighting for Their Jobs, Eagle Workers & Allies Rally in New Bedford

Present at the gathering to express their stalwart support for keeping the work in New Bedford were Councilmembers Jane Gonsalves and Brian Gomes, State Representative Tony Cabral, and representatives for Senator John Kerry and Rep. Barney Frank, each of whom delivered passionate, hopeful speeches about the value of a worker’s voice and the significance of this struggle both in present and future economies.

“While we watch the equipment being moved out of the plant,” wrote a worker in a letter addressed to Army officials, “I would also like you to know that the workforce includes people who pay home mortgages, parents of young children who both work at Eagle, pregnant women and middle-aged people. All of us depend on this employment.” 

 Efforts to resist the massive factory worker layoff are supported by members of the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation -- Rep. Barney Frank and Senators John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. In a compelling, joint letter to the Army officials responsible for the New Bedford contract, they detailed their collective concern about the announced factory closing and its “devastating” consequences for workers and the community. Reservations regarding the competence of ATK as a contractor were expressed in the letter, as were “questions as to whether part of ATK’s motivation was a response to attempts to organize the plant’s workforce – a possible violation of federal law.” The letter, translated into Spanish and Portuguese and distributed for the benefit of the multilingual workforce, ends with a substantial caveat: “We should ask if this is the kind of behavior we are willing to accept from companies thaPICT0297t have been entrusted with public funds to provide for the safety of our troops.”

With official responses from both ATK and the Army still yet to be made, workers continue to meet in solidarity with their communities. Representatives of Workers United have been organizing for the past year to win union recognition at the factory, and SweatFree Communities has reported on poor working conditions at the plant in its reports. In a statement made to Brian Crandall of NBC, Zach Lutz, a union representative, expressed his concern, saying “they are closing a productive factory that has successfully produced quality equipment for the U.S. military. There have been no complaints about quality or delivery. And they are taking it to a low-wage area to increase their profit margins. We don’t think that’s something that the Army should condone.”

A trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with Senator Kerry and other politicians on the Hill in person has been set for this Thursday, as stated in the Boston Globe article published on Sunday the 21st.  The small delegation of workers that will participate hopes that a face-to-face meeting will urge the politicians into stronger action. Another trip to the Army offices in Natick, MA has been scheduled for early in July to express the urgency of the matter to currently unresponsive officials.

Meanwhile, the disconnect between ATK’s values as stated on their website - “We consider it our duty and privilege to invest our human and capital resources in our communities because we recognize that the health of those communities is critical to our success” – and their recent behavior continues to cause distress, anger and anxiety amongst community members. Eagle workers look forward to meeting with Army officials and politicians with faith and great expectation to receive support in their struggle to keep their jobs and their livelihoods.