By Rep. Lynne Williams
Labor Day left me thinking about solidarity. As a former member of three labor unions over my working years, one in New York, one in San Francisco and one in Maine, I know the meaning and importance of solidarity. When one member or a group of members need support, we are there for them. Whether it’s personal support or political support, the union – leadership and membership – shows solidarity and support.
Because I live on Frenchman Bay on the Maine coast, I have daily reminders of those who fish. As chair of the Harbor Committee of Bar Harbor, I work with the committee members to address issues that concern the bay and those who work on it. And as an opponent of the unwise American Aquafarms salmon farm application, I have made the acquaintance of many more fishing families who likewise oppose this project proposed for Frenchman Bay.
This necessarily brings me back to my thoughts on solidarity. The fishing families need our support and activism to address the harsh, and inadvisable, blow that they have been dealt by the federal government. The new NOAA regulations are thoughtless impositions on those who work on the water. More so, they are not only challenging, they are also likely to be impossible, or extremely costly, to comply with on many levels. As just one example, a four-month closure of part of Maine’s lobster fishery, will cause significant financial losses by many families. Likewise, the purchase and utilization of ropeless technology will incur significant expenditures by those same families who are losing income due to the shutdown.
The Maine lobster fishery has repeatedly made significant improvements to their practices and gear, including the implementation of weak link mandates in 1997 and again in 2007, resulting in not a single right whale entanglement attributed to Maine lobster fisheries in nearly two decades.
Now, back to solidarity. At the end of the 19th century, sociologist Emile Durkheim discussed two kinds of solidarity – mechanical and organic. Mechanical solidarity was based on sameness, solidarity between and among those who do similar work. Thus we see an outpouring of support for Maine fishing families from those who also fish, not just for lobster but for other products from the sea, such as seaweed. There is also a strong overlay of family networks and generational relationships.
Organic solidarity is more complex and is based on a division of labor. It is not based on sameness, such as the same job, or the same work location, such as the sea. Rather it is based on a sense of interdependence, even though significant differences exist. And it is finding common ground alongside those significant differences.
So don’t ever think that this is not your fight because you don’t fish. It is your fight because it impacts your friends and neighbors and, in many ways, your entire community. Solidarity is based not just on sameness but also on commonality alongside differences, and on interdependence. Those who fish supply a product purchased by a restaurant, not only where we eat but which also hires our daughter who tutors a classmate whose brother is a sternman….and on and on. And so, because we are them and they are us, we must show solidarity and join the fight to change the unwise and harmful NOAA rules. We can do nothing less for our brothers and sisters.
Lynne Williams is a member of the Maine House of Representatives representing the Towns of Bar Harbor, Lamoine and Mount Desert.