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Saving the Space Coast

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As submitted to the Huffington Post

By Jerry Waxman

February 27, Titusville, FL.  There was a popular joke making the rounds in the 60’s along with “knock-knock” and “how many ethnics” jokes which made people laugh at its skewering of sensitivity. It was personified in Playboy Magazine by one of their regular contributors (I think it was either Eldon Dedini or Phil Interlandi) in a single panel; a business executive was sitting at his desk talking with an elderly woman wearing a shawl. The caption was “I know that mom, but what have you done for me lately?” Space Coast residents have been getting that particular feeling ever since NASA and the Obama Administration announced the end of the manned flight space program recently, which will have an adverse impact on 22,000 jobs in Central Florida.

The rally had been called for 3:00 PM at Brevard Community College. Union representatives from across the state of Florida as well as national union officers were on hand to speak about saving Space Coast jobs. Local merchants, politicians and community activists not affiliated with the unions were also there to speak and lend support. Over two thousand showed up and if the weather had been cooperative many more people would been there.

The theme was consistent throughout. “I am one of the faces of the Space Coast. My family is worth fighting for, my community is worth fighting for and my job is worth fighting for!” Laurilee Thompson is a co-owner of the Dixie Crossroads Seafood Restaurant who complained that she has already lost a valued employee due to the anxiety in the community. Thompson exclaimed that the community has to act to save itself as in the earlier ban on local fishing because, “The Fish Fairy didn’t save us and The Space Fairy won’t save us!”

Brevard County Commissioner Robin Fisher reminded the crowd that Candidate Obama made promises on this campus to save space jobs. “This is the first time I’ve seen you pissed off!” said Fisher, adding that congressmen from all the local districts as well as Senator Bill Nelson should “hold up all votes until we save Florida, and if that stops Washington that’s OK!”

The most impassioned speaker of the local speakers was Janet Eastman, President of the Brevard County Federation of Teachers, noting that Brevard schools partnering with NASA has produced one of the best school systems in Florida and perhaps the country. She remembers the devastation caused by the elimination of the Apollo program, noting that it took years for the area to recover.” Eastman warned, “The quality of our public education will implode and it won’t be a gradual decline.”

Ed Hill, National President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, reminded the crowd that the IBEW has been with the Space Program for 50 years, having helped put Alan Sheppard into space and John Glenn into orbit among its other contributions. Robert Martinez, President of IAMAW, the machinists and aerospace workers union claimed that that the Obama Administration has been mislead by others in its decisions, adding that the private sector can in no way match the current space program.

“Let me ask you something” said Donald Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO in his opening statement, “is there anybody out there that’s ready to fight for jobs and stop what’s going on in this nation? Anybody out there had enough?” The crowd responded with applause and cheers. Trumka cited the “Miracle of Titusville” a coming together of space workers, their unions, local merchants and politicians to create a forty year period of cooperation to “make this a great place to live and to work.”  Trumka emphasized that at a time of great economic hardship it makes no sense whatever to eliminate critical jobs in the space industry. He went on to say that while many Americans may think that government is broken, the space program is a model that works well and efficiently and asked the question “Does it make any sense?” The crowd roared no in disapproval. Trumka told the crowd to tell Washington that “if it isn’t broken don’t try to fix it!”

Trumka told the crowd that he has just come from Evansville, Indiana where Whirlpool has announced that it is closing its plant and moving the production to Mexico putting another 1100 people out of work. Condemning the country’s policies on moving production Trumka said “I say enough is enough. It’s time we keep it and make it right here in America.”  Trumka went on to say “We can only do so much in Washington. What we have to do is exactly what our union movement and this entire community is doing right here in Florida, we have to take the initiative, building a broad coalition of workers and business people and elected and community leaders fighting back with everything that we have. All across our country we’re seeing an uprising that’s bringing entire communities together, communities that were split before, now standing arms locked, demanding jobs, demanding that Main Street come before Wall Street, and we come first!”

The rally ended about 4:40 PM and the sun shone through briefly. Perhaps it was a sign of better things to come. The Space Coast is ready to increase its commitment just in case the Administration doesn’t think it’s doing enough for them lately.

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