‘Workers can organize and
fight independent of bosses’
SWP candidates join labor, social struggles
James Harris, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president, joined July 10 march to back janitors, members of Service Employees International Union Local 1, on strike in Houston.
BY MAGGIE TROWE
AND EDWIN FRUIT
“It appears Iowans will have an alternative to President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney when they go to the polls in November,” the Daily Gate City in Keokuk, Iowa, reported July 16. “Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate James Harris stopped in Keokuk Saturday to talk to workers and drum up support for an independent movement away from the Democratic and Republican parties.
“‘There needs to be a revolutionary change in America,’” said Harris, a veteran trade unionist, reported the paper. “‘Until we take power and organize ourselves, we’ll bear the full brunt of the economic crisis. That’s why we’re talking to working class people, farmers and young people.’” The article was written by the paper’s managing editor, Steve Dunn.
Harris was in Keokuk as part of a three-day tour in Iowa, as supporters there wrapped up a petitioning drive to put the working class, labor, socialist campaign—Harris for president and Maura DeLuca for vice president—on the ballot, along with David Rosenfeld, the SWP candidate for U.S. Congress in Iowa’s 3rd District.
Supporters there gathered well over 2,200 signatures in nine days, hundreds more than required.
In Keokuk, Harris participated in a meeting at the home of Buddy Howard, a corn-processing worker and veteran of a fight against the 10-month lockout by Roquette America in 2010-2011. He, along with his wife Doris Howard, hosted the get-together.
“When workers unite in a struggle, you see the flowering of creativity, and people learn to do things they never thought they could do,” Harris told workers there. The wide-ranging discussion lasted several hours.
Harris explained why neither Democrats’ nor Republicans’ health care proposals are good for working people. He contrasted health care in revolutionary Cuba, which goes from cradle to grave, with what workers receive under the profit-driven, bureaucratic capitalist system, taxing and gouging working people while ensuring large returns for the medical, pharmaceutical, and insurance capitalists.
Buddy Howard asked if the rise of corporate power and the bosses’ increasing attacks on workers signified the gradual rise of fascism. “The rulers will only reach for a fascist movement when the working class rises and they have no alternative,” Harris responded. “We’re not mobilized to that point yet. But the bosses are putting ever more severe conditions on us, and more workers will decide to fight.”
Larry Long, another corn-processing worker and rank-and-file leader of the fight against the Roquette lockout, asked if Swedish socialism is connected to the SWP.
“Many European countries have large social democratic parties based on the unions, but in fact these parties support the capitalists and carry out the same anti-working-class measures,” Harris said. “The SWP is a revolutionary party that joins in with labor and social struggles, charting a working-class road to workers power.” Harris pointed out that the big battles of the proletarian Black rights movement that brought down Jim Crow segregation were mass social struggles, as was the Cuban Revolution.
Harris attends NAACP convention
Harris participated in the national convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, held in Houston July 9-11.
“There’s a little more resistance today. You see strikes, protests and other struggles,” responded Harris to comments by Kenneth Davidson, a leader of the NAACP in Palestine, Texas, who told the SWP presidential candidate about protests he helped organize against the April 2011 Anderson County Commissioners’ declaration of Confederate History Month and flying the Confederate flag over the county courthouse.
Harris also met members of the Service Employees International Union, who came to the convention to publicize a march and rally launching a strike against their bosses—the companies that contract to clean commercial office buildings in Houston. Harris joined the protest later that day.
“The boss threatened to fire us if we went on strike,” Salvatore Carrara, a 25-year-old janitor and SEIU member, told Harris. “But we face harassment like that almost every day. I’m here to fight against that and for higher pay.”
“Because their capitalist system is in a historic crisis,” Harris said to Carrara, “they are doing the one thing they know will shore up their profits: forcing more work on fewer workers and cutting pay and benefits. Your fight for better wages and working conditions is very important. Workers need to come together, fight, grow stronger and more self-confident, and organize politically independent of the bosses and their parties.”
DeLuca wins support in Washington
Nearly 50 people attended a campaign rally in Seattle July 14 with Maura DeLuca, culminating her tour in Washington state.
DeLuca was joined on the panel by Syd Coe, a member of Teamsters Local 117 on strike against the Davis Wire Corp. in Kent, Wash., as well as SWP candidates from Washington and California.
“We really did not have a choice,” said Coe, explaining why they went on strike May 21. “The company has refused to bargain in good faith and we could not continue to work under the conditions we faced, including denying us lunch breaks and working us for weeks without a day off.
“Even though workers speak several different languages, coming from Vietnam, Russia, Ukraine, Korea, and the Philippines, as well as the U.S.,” Coe added, “we are all solidarity conscious and we stick together for our rights.
“I see the Militant as a tool to keep me fighting and it educates the masses as to what is really happening to working people and how they fight back,” said Coe, who has worked at Davis Wire for nine years.
“Our campaign is fighting for a massive, government-funded public works program to create jobs and build schools, roads, parks, public transportation, child care and other infrastructure working people need,” DeLuca told the meeting.
More than $2,300 was raised for the Socialist Workers National Campaign at the event.
A message was read from Byron Jacobs, former secretary-treasurer of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 and a leader of the union’s eight-monthlong fight in Longview, Wash., against a union-busting campaign by EGT Development Corp. (See accompanying article.)
DeLuca’s tour started July 11 in Longview. She campaigned outside the local Walmart and Lowe’s where more than 150 people signed petitions to put the socialist candidates on the ballot.
As Crystal Clarke signed, she remarked, “We need jobs and day care. For every job opening in Longview, 50 or more people show up. I’ve got seven kids and have been out of work for four years.”
The Longview Daily News did an interview with DeLuca at the Walmart and printed an article with her photo. “Several people signed the petition while a journalist was there,” the paper noted. (See accompanying box.)
DeLuca was also invited to collect signatures outside the ILWU Local 21 hall, where the union’s monthly meeting was occurring. Several members stopped to talk and sign.
The next day DeLuca joined the Davis Wire picket line where strikers told her they would not go back to work without a contract and are getting a lot of community support.
Michael Fitzsimmons in Houston contributed to this article.
Campaign can help give workers ‘one big voice’