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Cold War’s End Threatens to Leave Thousands of Workers Out of Jobs

January 30, 1992

GROTON, Conn. (AP) _ The Cold War has been won, but the spoils of victory may belong to someone other than the 21,000 workers at the Electric Boat yard.

They stand to lose their jobs as a result of $50 billion in defense cuts proposed Tuesday by President Bush. He called for reducing the number of Seawolf attack submarines being built by EB to the one under construction.

″I don’t figure I’ll be here by the end of the year,″ said Mike Dreimiller, a computer systems analyst at the shipyard for 10 years.

But Dreimiller, 32 and single, said as he ordered lunch from a vendor outside the yard’s main gate Wednesday that he’s ″one of the lucky ones.″

″President Bush treats the labor force like a disposable razor,″ complained union representative Tom Teixeira, a 32-year shipyard veteran.

Across the nation, the mood was somber as several big defense contractors faced the possibility of large layoffs.

- In Southern California, Northrop Corp. learned the president wants to cut construction on the B-2 stealth bomber program from 75 to 20 planes to save $14.5 billion over five years. The move would eliminate at least 1,500 jobs.

- In Colorado, Bush’s proposed scrapping of the W-88 missile program would eliminate 4,100 jobs at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant over three years.

- In Washington state, Seattle-based Boeing Corp., a major subcontractor for the B-2, could lose as many as 2,000 jobs this year.

But Connecticut, where a 1990 study determined that a third of the state’s 1.5 million workers depend on the defense industry, has been particularly hard hit.

At EB, officials had already said they anticipated laying off 10,000 of their 17,000 Groton employees by 1997 as work on several submarine programs winds down. The company employs 4,000 more workers in Rhode Island.

The move to slash the Seawolf program to one submarine - the Navy had once wanted as many as 36 at $2 billion apiece - threatens the company’s survival, said spokesman Neil Ruenzel.

EB, which has been bulding submarines since 1924, is Connecticut’s second- largest private employer and a bulwark of the local economy. It pays $14 million a year in state and local taxes and has a payroll of $421 million.

″You’re not going to have much of a city left,″ warned James Miller, who runs the parts department at Morgan & White Appliance in this town of 45,000.

Wednesday’s action also follows by a week the announcement by United Technologies Corp., the state’s largest private employer, that it plans to eliminate 13,900 jobs, including 6,400 in Connecticut.

The Hartford-based aerospace giant, whose divisions include Pratt and Whitney jet engines and Sikorsky helicopters, cited declining defense spending and the recession.

Local historian Jeremy Brecher, who has written extensively on the state’s dependence on defense spending, said the rapidly shrinking military industry leaves the state with the challenge of finding jobs for people whose vocations have disappeared.

″Do we take this as a social responsibility or do we say these people and skills are like old-fashioned machines that we’re just going to throw on the scrap heap?″ he asked.

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