Lyons, a garment worker, has been certified to be on the ballot in the April primary election after she turned in 1,000 signatures to city officials. Many workers gladly signed the petitions when they heard the candidate's proposals for the energy crisis.
"We call for taking the energy industry out of the hands of the private profiteers," Lyons told one worker during the petitioning drive. "We demand the government nationalize Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric, and the whole energy industry. We call for energy to be run by a publicly elected board independent of the government, with workers in the industry controlling the conditions of production. We demand the books of the industry be opened."
"I'll sign for that!" he said, as did many Lyons spoke with along similar lines.
Some of the most positive responses came from immigrant workers. For example, a woman who used to be a teacher in Mexico explained that she left her home a year ago to escape oppression and exploitation only to find even worse conditions for non-English-speaking immigrants in the United States.
'I've been looking for this'
Three young people who met supporters of Lyons's campaign attended a recent forum on "The Fraud of the Energy Crisis." Jeremy, a 23-year-old student at Los Angeles Community College, said he liked what Lyons had to say. "I've been looking for something like this for a long time," he said. Benjamin, who attends Trade Tech, expressed interest in joining classes socialists organize on issues covered in Pathfinder books.
Lyons spoke to 50 students at the University of Southern California for nearly an hour February 2. Her presentation was followed by a lively discussion period and a number of hands were still in the air when the class ended.
On February 6 Lyons participated in a forum featuring candidates for mayor at Los Angeles Community College. In her opening remarks she said, "The Socialist Workers campaign is a working-class voice in this election, building solidarity with working people from janitors and bus operators who stood up for all workers here in Los Angeles when they carried out their magnificent strikes, to Palestinians fighting for their homeland, to the workers and farmers of Cuba defending their socialist revolution."
"We are discussing at plant gates," continued Lyons, "on picket lines and protests, and in working-class communities how working people can transform the trade unions into fighting organizations that can defend all workers from the impact of the crisis of the capitalist economy, such as layoffs, the energy crisis, police brutality, and the drive to new wars as the U.S. pushes for nuclear first-strike capacity with its antimissile program. In the face of this crisis we need to organize a revolutionary struggle by millions of working people to replace the capitalist government in Washington with one of our own."
After discussing the demand to nationalize the energy industry, she said, "We say not one penny to bail out the billionaires who got us into this mess. We call for full compensation for every worker who has been laid off or lost work hours due to the rolling blackouts; we call for full compensation for farmers who have had to dump milk or lose their crops due to power outages. We say 'No' to nuclear power, which is unsafe, and 'No' to relaxing the pollution controls and drilling in the Arctic for the profits of the energy trusts."
Equal rights for immigrants
She called for equal rights for all immigrants and support for workers at Royal Airlines Laundry in their attempt to organize a union.
One participant asked the candidates what they would do "about the problem of undocumented workers?" Lyons said the "capitalist class goes all over the world exploiting labor; workers should have the right to go where they want in order to live and find work. We are for a world without borders. There is no 'problem' of undocumented workers for the working class," she said. "Immigrant workers have strengthened the working class. The recent strikes of janitors and bus operators, who are largely immigrant workers, illustrate this."
Another person asked about reforming the Los Angeles Police Department, which has been embroiled in revelations over cops in the Rampart Division involved in more than 100 frame-ups and acts of violence against working people.
"There is no way to reform the LAPD," said Lyons. "The Rampart revelations just lift a tiny corner of the veil over the standard operating procedures of the police all over the country. The job of these cops is to 'protect and serve' the interests of big business, including the big business of drugs, and to brutalize workers so the rulers keep us in our place. We call for jailing the guilty cops every time they carry out these acts. And the only way this will happen is to follow the example of families and friends of victims of police brutality who have organized mobilizations of working people to demand justice."
Lyons said that in the garment industry where she works many bosses do not pay the legal minimum wage. Some ads for garment jobs say "We pay the minimum" as a selling point. "It's widely known that the garment bosses are breaking the law by not paying the minimum wage," she said, "yet you never see the LAPD move against these lawbreakers."
In response to a question about funds for new schools, Lyons said, "One of the hallmarks of the system that puts profits before human needs is the attitude to social questions such as education. Billions go to bail out the energy trusts while there are peanuts for schools. We are going into a downturn, with more layoffs. We call for the labor movement to take up the fight to protect workers by demanding a massive program of public works for schools and other human needs such as housing and day-care centers.
"The fact that these human needs get short shrift points to the need for a workers and farmers government to replace capitalist rule," Lyons said. Pointing to revolutionary Cuba, the socialist candidate said that before the revolution, "the vast majority of the population was illiterate. After the revolution a historic literacy campaign was launched by the new government. Young people from the cities who knew how to read and write went to the countryside to teach the peasants those skills. But they didn't go just to teach. They also went to learn from the peasants who were a backbone of the revolution. It strengthened the alliance between the workers and peasants, and the Cubans are one of the most highly educated populations in the world today with the right to free education through the university level."
"The best thing young people can do is join the revolutionary movement and fight for working people to take power," she said in response to a question on youth. Lyons gave some examples of the deepening mood of resistance among workers, from those in Los Angeles who have carried out strikes, to coal miners fighting against attacks on health care, to meat packers who are organizing to build unions, to the fight against police brutality, to the Palestinian people fighting for a return to their homeland. She also pointed to the example of recent actions by auto workers in Britain striking against layoffs, and labor mobilizations in France, Ecuador, and Argentina.
At the end of the meeting many students gathered around the Pathfinder literature table to continue discussions with Lyons and other campaign supporters and to find out how to get involved.
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