The Militant (logo) 
   Vol.65/No.42            November 5, 2001 
Miami socialist candidate fights political firing at garment shop
(front page)
MIAMI--On Monday, October 22, Michael Italie, a sewing machine operator at Goodwill Industries of South Florida and Socialist Workers candidate for mayor of the city of Miami, was fired from his job here. A manager told Italie at the end of the shift that he was terminated because of his views of the U.S. government, which are contrary to the company's.

Italie has been campaigning since his nomination in July--joining workers' picket lines, participating in street actions in opposition to Washington's policy towards Cuba, and protesting a series of racist killings by police in the Miami area. He was fired a few days after appearing on local TV that covered a candidates forum at Miami Dade Community College (MDCC), where Italie called for an end to Washington's war on Afghanistan and to the intensified assault on workers' rights at home. The socialist candidate has been certified to be on the ballot in the November 6 elections.

"I am going to fight this political firing," Italie told the Militant. "This is an attack on the right of all working people to speak their mind on government policy without fear of intimidation or losing their jobs. It's an attack on the labor movement. It's an attempt by this employer to shut down political space for freedom of expression on and off the job. It's a concrete example of the results of the patriotic, pro-war hysteria promoted by the government in Washington."

Working people and youth have shown interest in Italie's campaign. At his workplace, a nonunion clothing factory of several hundred, his co-workers have discussed with him issues ranging from the Cuban Revolution to the attacks on workers' rights that have accompanied Washington's war in Afghanistan. Some helped to translate Italie's campaign biography into French for the many Haitian-born workers in the plant. Several co-workers joined him at the July 7 funeral of Marc Dorvil, a Haitian man who died in the custody of North Bay Village police, and a September 5 rally for immigrant rights.

The events that seem to have sparked the firing began October 18. That day Italie joined seven other candidates for mayor of Miami at a candidates forum held at the MDCC Wolfson campus in downtown Miami. More than 400 students and faculty attended the forum, and the event received broad media coverage. Italie explained his campaign's opposition to the U.S.-British war in Afghanistan in his introductory remarks. He also pointed out that he is the only worker running for mayor.

During the discussion period a student asked the candidates what they would do about inefficiency, waste, and corruption in government. "Workers, farmers, and young people need to break out of the two-party framework of the profit-driven capitalist system we live under," Italie said, "and join the fight to build a revolutionary working-class movement that can take power out of the hands of the warmakers, form a workers and farmers government, and join the worldwide struggle for socialism. That's the only way to solve government waste and corruption in the long run."

He also pointed to many of his campaign demands, including the call for a public works program to create jobs, raising the minimum wage, fighting for affirmative action, and canceling the foreign debt of semicolonial countries. Many in the audience applauded when the socialist candidate added, "The issue is not whether or not the government today is 'efficient.' I am against making the police more efficient at beating up people and killing them."

Libertarian Party candidate Emiliano Antúnez criticized Italie for presenting a revolutionary perspective, saying that "thousands of people risk their lives" to get away from revolutionary Cuba. "I support the Cuban Revolution and oppose the Cuban Adjustment Act that cynically tries to entice Cubans to come to the United States outside of regular forms of immigration," the socialist candidate responded. In early September Italie had spoken out against the city administration's assistance to right-wing forces that wanted to protest near the entrance to the Latin Grammies award show, leading the organizers to move it to Los Angeles. Italie stated that "working people need full cultural exchange with Cuba, an end to the U.S. embargo, and the freedom to travel to Cuba." He also helped build a car caravan organized by the Antonio Maceo Brigade and other groups demanding freedom of cultural exchange with Cuba.

When the October 18 campus forum ended, the socialist campaign table was mobbed by people interested in learning more about the campaign. Fifteen people signed up for more information and to help out. Three of these young people attended a Militant Labor Forum on the history of imperialist domination of Afghanistan the next evening, where Italie participated as well.

The following day at work, Friday, October 19, a number of co-workers told Italie they had seen him on Channel 51, one of the Spanish-language TV stations, where he appeared briefly and was described by reporters as the socialist candidate for mayor. Several supervisors also approached Italie during the course of that day, and the next day, seeking to engage him in discussion about his campaign.

In an interview, Italie stated that on the following Monday, October 22, he reported for work as usual at 7:00 a.m. and worked on his sewing machine all day. At 5:00 p.m., half an hour before the end of the shift, said Italie, "The top supervisor in the department told me that they wanted to talk with me in the personnel office. When we got to the office, we met with a manager."

The manager had a paper with a few handwritten lines on it, Italie said, and seemed to use it as his text as he proceeded to announce the firing. According to Italie, this manager said: "I have been assigned to tell you that because of your views against the U.S. government, you are a disruptive force and cannot work here any longer. Get your belongings and go." The manager stated that Italie's views were contrary to those of "this agency," referring to Goodwill Industries, but would not specify which of Italie's views in particular the clothing manufacturer objected to. Italie asked for a copy of what the manager had read from, and for his business card, but the company representative refused. Company personnel escorted Italie out of the plant at that point.

"I will not be intimidated and I will continue to use my campaign to speak out for workers and farmers fighting to organize and defend our unions, protest police brutality, and stand up to the U.S.-British imperialist war in Afghanistan," Italie said. "This war is the central issue in politics today. It's important for workers and farmers to be able to discuss this without fear of losing their jobs, in order to be able to organize and defend our rights."

Italie's campaign is planning a press conference for October 26 outside the factory to protest this political firing by the Goodwill bosses, and demand his job back. Supporters of the socialist campaign are inviting unionists, civil rights fighters, and all defenders of free speech to join him at the news conference and in this fight. Mayoral candidate Danny Couch and longtime community activist John Due pledged their support on October 24.

Italie will also take advantage of media coverage of his campaign to press for reversal of his firing, including free one-minute air time offered to all mayoral candidates by the local NBC affiliate for its 6:00 p.m. newscast.

Argiris Malapanis is a meat packer in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Related article:
Miami mayor protests, but socialist speaks out  
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