BY STEVE WARSHELL
CLEVELAND - "The union is even stronger since the lockout. You don't know what a difference it makes for people to come out and support us," remarked Kevin Valot while on picket duty in early October at WCI Steel in Warren, Ohio. Valot spoke with Mike Fitzsimmons, the Socialist Workers candidate for the Cleveland Board of Education, who was making one of his many visits to the picket line.
WCI locked out the 1,700 members of United Steelworkers of America (USWA) locals 1375 and 6824 on August 31 and replaced them with scabs. The strike was marked by repeated mobilizations of the union ranks that forced the company to stop production and ship the scabs home. "Solidarity Works" became a popular slogan among the unionists. Workers overwhelmingly approved a contract October 24 that is seen as a union victory.
The socialist campaign was received with interest by many of these fighters during a union barbecue at the USWA hall. Fitzsimmons, a member of the United Auto Workers, addressed a crowd of about 100 steelworkers and supporters during the event, where local elected officials were invited to speak. "By standing up and fighting WCI's lockout, you have inspired workers throughout the area," Fitzsimmons said. "I will continue to tell the truth about your fight wherever I go. The key to your strength and unity has been the mobilizations of broad support through rallies and marches."
Afterward, supporters spoke with union members and circulated campaign literature to the crowd. A campaign brochure calling for "Jobs for all - shorten the workweek with no cut in pay" was one of several issues of interest to the strikers.
Campaigners in Cleveland began in August with a brief petitioning drive to get the Socialist Workers candidate on the ballot. One thousand people signed the petitions - more than three times the required number.
Depression conditions weigh heavily among workers in Cleveland, over 40 percent of whom live below the official poverty level. The proposals to unite the working class around a fight for jobs for all and defense of affirmative action were well received and many signers took campaign flyers or purchased the Militant.
Defending Irish freedom struggle
Socialist campaigners participated in a rally at the British consulate here on August 31. The action, organized by Saoirse, demanded freedom for Irish fighters who are imprisoned in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, and other countries. Fitzsimmons spoke to the crowd of 50, saying that the rise in protests against British rule in the north of Ireland and strikes by workers at Caterpillar and the Detroit newspapers pointed to openings to win broader support for the fight for Irish self- determination. He invited participants to join him at the Labor Day mobilization for newspaper workers in Detroit.
Defending Irish freedom struggle
Fitzsimmons used the school board elections to campaign around the major issues facing working people. As part of several panel discussions with all school board candidates present, Fitzsimmons defended school desegregation and busing against most other candidates, who had called for an end to the federal court-ordered Cleveland desegregation plan.
"I reject the idea that segregated education can be equal education and support the use of busing to achieve desegregation," the socialist explained. Fitzsimmons also condemned anti-immigrant legislation like California's Proposition 187 and called for equal rights and access to social services for immigrants.
Steve Warshell is a member of the United Transportation Union.
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