About sixty workers and their supporters turned out this evening to attend the meeting of the New Bedford city council. The city councillors were planning to vote on a resolution urging the Eagle manufacturing plant to keep jobs in New Bedford, for as the New Bedford Standard-Times reported yesterday, “The labor union organizing a union drive at Eagle Industries says it has changed tactics and is now trying to keep the South End military apparel plant from potentially leaving New Bedford and taking with it 330 jobs.” Eagle is the company that took over for Michael Bianco, which was the company that hired illegal immigrants to work in sweatshop conditions, and that was shut down by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in March, 2007, in a raid that made national headlines.

Anyway, there we all were tonight, standing around in the chilly dampness in front of City Hall. Zach Lutz, the UNITE HERE! union organizer said a few words, Cynthia Rodrigues from the Central Labor Council named all the unions that were represented — UNITE HERE, Carpenters, SEIU Local 1199, AFT, UWUA, etc. — and I gave the invocation. But the important speakers, the ones we came to hear, were some of the people who work at Eagle Industries. One woman gave specifics of which parts of the factory have been shut down. Another woman told how she had been fired because she was considered disruptive, because she was helping organize the workers. A couple of them spoke in Spanish, while one of their co-workers translated into English. Everyone cheered them after they spoke, and you could see them stand up a little straighter at that — although I suspect those momentary cheers will be small comfort tomorrow when they’re back at work.

The mayor of New Bedford came out of City Hall, and told the crowd that he has contacted both U.S. senators from our state, and our U.S. representative, and they are all committed to making sure all 330 jobs at the Eagle plant stay in the city; then he left quickly for another event. Suddenly someone noticed that one of the supervisors from Eagle, a woman named Dana, was sitting in a parked car watching the rally, keeping an eye on which workers were in attendance. Someone from one of the other local unions (I think he was from the Carpenter’s Union) started chanting, Shame on Dana! and everyone took up the chant for a moment. A guy beside me muttered disgustedly, That’s where our tax dollars go — what he meant was: The only work that the plant gets is from the Department of Defense and they’re using tax dollars from government defense contracts to pay their managers to spy on their workers.

By then it was time to troop upstairs to the Council Chambers. Those who could squeezed in on the main floor, and the rest of us milled around outside the door or slipped upstairs to the balcony. I had to leave early for an event at the church — when I left, everyone was sitting there waiting for the Council meeting to begin, waiting for the city council to resolve to keep jobs in New Bedford, hoping that our city wouldn’t lose another 330 jobs just because the absentee owners of Eagle Industries decide they can get cheaper, more compliant workers at their plant in Puerto Rico.