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Vol. 75/No. 28      August 1, 2011

(front page)
‘Shorter workweek
with no cut in pay’
Socialist candidate talks about jobs crisis
Militant/Cindy Jaquith
Christopher Hoeppner, right, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Congress in New York’s 9th District, talks with nurse Sharon Salmon while campaigning in Forest Hills, Queens.

NEW YORK, July 17—“Something has to be done about unemployment. We can’t keep on like this,” Florentino Colon told Christopher Hoeppner, the Socialist Workers Party candidate in the special September 13 election in the 9th Congressional District.

Last week Hoeppner and his campaign supporters collected more than 7,000 signatures to put the Socialist Workers Party on the ballot in the district, which covers parts of Queens and Brooklyn. Today he and half a dozen supporters were back in the Forest Hills neighborhood of Queens campaigning.

Colon has worked as a doorman for 20 years. “Some people I know are working 10 to 12 hours a day,” he told Hoeppner. “Meanwhile others are out of work. The big executives make millions while sacrificing working people. The government needs to help private companies create jobs,” Colon suggested, adding that “bridges and roads need to be repaired.”

“The capitalist class and their government have no jobs program,” Hoeppner replied. “It’s working people who have to organize and fight together for what we need. The Socialist Workers Party proposes that working people organize a fight to demand that Congress pass emergency legislation for a shorter workweek with no cut in pay.

“That would put millions back to work,” he said, “and put the burden of the crisis on the backs of the bosses.” Forcing the employers to spread the available work around would cut into their profits, instead of devastating the lives and livelihoods of working people, he noted.

“That sounds good,” Colon said.

The Socialist Workers Party campaign also calls for a government-funded public works program to create jobs for millions rebuilding roads, railways, and other crumbling infrastructure and constructing schools, hospitals, child-care centers, and other projects needed by working people

“Capitalism keeps creating and recreating the same problems,” Hoeppner told Colon. “That’s why we need to take power out of the hands of the capitalist ruling families.”

Unemployment and job conditions were also on the mind of Sharon Salmon, a private nurse. Salmon explained that on the first day of her last job, she was the only nurse on evening shift for 60 nursing-home patients.

“You just can’t give proper care under those conditions,” she said. “They’ve cut back on hours, so the family has to provide care. And our pay rate keeps going down. I take home in three days what I used to make in half that time.” Salmon said she can’t afford medical insurance for herself.

“Medical care should be universal for all working people,” Hoeppner said. “Not something contingent on where you work and what you can afford. But the capitalist class will never prioritize health care over profits.”

Just since 2009 St. John’s Hospital and Mary Immaculate Hospital have been closed down in Queens, as have St. Vincent’s Hospital and North General Hospital in Manhattan. For tens of millions of working people, there is no prospect of regular preventive checkups and treatment of chronic conditions.

“Changing things like this will take a real fight,” Hoeppner said. “Yes,” Salmon agreed. “It will take a long time. But we have to try.”

While some people didn’t want to talk, others—including some who initially said “I’m not interested in politics”—stopped when they heard what Hoeppner had to say about the depth of the capitalist crisis and need for working people to fight.

John Doyle, a retired construction worker from Ireland, stopped to take a campaign flyer. “It’s the same all over the world,” Doyle said. “In Ireland teachers are being laid off. They are closing factories.” But the United States, too, “is in dire straits,” he added. “I expected better from Obama.”

“Obama represents the ruling class in this country,” Hoeppner replied. “They are using the rising debt of the U.S. government as an excuse to come after working people.”

Among the other things Hoeppner raised as he campaigned were the need to fight for an immediate and unconditional end to the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Libya. He talked to passersby about why support for legalization of immigrant workers is decisive to strengthen the solidarity and fighting capacity of the working class.

“My campaign will be joining others in the streets of Germantown, Maryland, to defend the abortion clinic there when opponents of choice by women mobilize to try to shut it down,” Hoeppner told those he spoke with here in Forest Hills.

“We join the struggles taking place today, big and small, that defend the interests of the working class. That’s how we can build the kind of mass revolutionary movement of working people that can place workers and farmers in power and begin the reorganization of society in our interests.”
Related articles:
‘The police turned the victim into the criminal’
Socialists begin campaign for N.Y. Assembly seats
Socialist candidate for Congress wins N.Y. ballot spot  
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