OLD TOWN, Maine — The handful of union men and women waved their blue “Obama” signs Wednesday afternoon in the shadow of the former Georgia-Pacific paper mill.
The laid-off millworkers and DHL drivers chose a desolate spot for a press conference to denounce Sen. John McCain’s proposed economic policies and protest Gov. Sarah Palin’s visit to Bangor today.
“My family’s point of view is, the economics have not been good,” said John Plummer Jr. of Bangor, who worked for four years as a crane operator at Georgia-Pacific and then at Red Shield until it shut down in June.
“When we started there, the working people were middle class,” Plummer said. “Now we’re the working poor. We want to get our jobs back in the community.”
Organizers from Sen. Barack Obama’s Maine campaign office assembled the short-notice press conference.
Plummer and others spoke near the mill’s empty parking lots under a blue autumn sky where no plumes of smoke drifted to spread the pungent smell of money around the area. It was a place where the only visible sign of salvation came from the “Revival Tonight” placard at the nearby Great Works Mission.
And this concerns Rep. Dick Blanchard of Old Town, who had no trouble linking McCain with President Bush’s economic policies, which he said have done Old Town no favors.
The Old Town Georgia-Pacific mill employed 400 people before it closed in 2006.
“Look behind us and you see no smoke in these empty smokestacks,” Blanchard said. “Families are falling behind, but it’s not their fault. … Basically, it’s a disaster. Sen. McCain wants to give America four more years of the same Bush. It ain’t working, in plain English, as they say around here. It ain’t working.”
Unsurprisingly, Maine Republican Party Chairman Mark Ellis did not agree with Blanchard and the laid-off workers.
“There is no question that John McCain’s economic policies will move this country forward,” Ellis said in a statement. “McCain has a proven track record of fighting against wasteful Washington spending. … Obama’s reckless policies will put our economy on a downward spiral and will stifle job growth.”
The Mainers who gathered at the closed-down mill said that they have higher hopes for how the local economy would be boosted in an Obama administration.
“I hope Barack Obama and Sen. Biden can pull it off,” Plummer said. “I think they’ll stimulate the economy and help people get back to work.”
Plummer, who has been out of work since June, said that “uncertainty is very scary.”
In Old Town, where the economy has been uncertain since Georgia-Pacific shut its doors, officials such as Blanchard said that Obama energizes them with his plan to jump-start the economy.
“He’s going to supply thousands of green jobs,” Blanchard said. “What will work for Obama and Biden is to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure and put Americans back to work.”