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Vol. 74/No. 30      August 9, 2010

Meat packers in Iowa sign petitions
(lead article)
DES MOINES, Iowa—During a shift change at the JBS Swift plant in Marshalltown, Iowa, 89 meat packers signed petitions to put Socialist Workers candidates on the statewide ballot. Margaret Trowe and Rebecca Williamson, SWP candidates for secretary of agriculture and U.S. Congress in the 3rd District respectively, used to work at the plant.

Iowa socialist campaigners have now gone over the top, with 2,133 signatures collected, well over the 1,500 required.

JBS workers readily signed when told the Socialist Workers program put safety first on the job. “Not the ‘safety’ the company talks about while they continually push for more production,” Trowe explained at the plant gate. “My program is for the workers controlling the line speed and all aspects of health and safety on the job, including no forced overtime.”

While campaigning here, Helen Meyers, SWP candidate for lieutenant governor, met Billy Byrd, a worker who is Black. He said his son had been killed by the police in 2007. Byrd signed the petition and bought a Militant. “As long as no one says anything, it stays the same at best, or gets worse,” Byrd told Meyers.

A panel of SWP candidates from the Midwest spoke at a victory celebration for the petitioning effort July 24.

John Hawkins, SWP candidate for governor of Illinois, said, “You had to be joyous when you heard about the conviction of Johannes Mehserle,” the Bay Area transit cop who killed Oscar Grant, a young Black man, more than a year ago. “This was a victory for Blacks and a victory for all workers.”

Hawkins pointed to the June 28 conviction of Jon Burge, a former Chicago policeman fired 17 years ago for using suffocation, electric shocks, and beatings to force confessions out of suspects. He was convicted of lying about torture in a civil lawsuit.

Pointing to the indictments of four New Orleans cops for killing Black people crossing the Danziger Bridge to get groceries after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Hawkins said, “These developments are significant for working people. They don’t happen by accident. They happen because of changes that have taken place throughout society, the weakening of racism, and because people, like those involved in Burge’s conviction, courageously continue to speak out.”

“No way can workers win justice in the capitalist courts,” continued Hawkins, “but these recent developments that went against the cops sends a message. It slows down their actions and gives encouragement to those who have been abused by the cops to stand up and speak out.”

Anthony Lane, SWP candidate for U.S. Congress in the 5th C.D., in Minnesota, also spoke at the rally.

Trowe, in her talk, began by denouncing Congress’s denial of a $1.2 billion payment to Black farmers for discrimination by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Black farmers have been waiting decades for this partial redress of the racism the government has subjected them to.

She explained that working farmers throughout the country face the constant threat of losing their land, or not making enough to cover their costs. Iowa is the number one state in production of corn, hogs, and eggs.

As an agricultural state, the crisis of capitalism affects workers and farmers alike. The alliance between exploited producers in the city and on the land is crucial to working people being able to advance.  
Guarantee farmers use of land
The Socialist Workers platform, Trowe said, calls for “the government to guarantee the costs of production to working farmers. This includes access to government-financed affordable credit and a halt to farm foreclosures. Farmers must be guaranteed use of the land they rent or hold title to without fear of eviction.

“David Rosenfeld, our candidate for governor, and I attended a rally of dairy farmers in Manchester, Iowa, last year, when milk prices had fallen below the cost of production,” continued Trowe. “We attend conferences and protests organized by farmers, and discuss the worker-farmer alliance with our coworkers in industry, some of whom are farmers or come from farm families.

“Workers and farmers have a common exploiter, a common enemy in the dictatorship of capital. Their exploitation and all the misery and insecurity resulting from it can be eliminated only by a revolution that overturns capitalist rule.

“Along that road workers and farmers need to break from the capitalist parties—Democrats and Republicans, alike—and through the course of struggles throw their energies into building and supporting a labor party that is based on the unions.”
Related articles:
D.C. socialists go into final stretch
Socialist candidates hit streets of New York City  
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