The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 73/No. 33      August 31, 2009

Iowa socialist debates
at union campaign forum
(feature article)
DES MOINES, Iowa—David Rosenfeld, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for Des Moines City Council at-large, was among seven candidates who spoke at a union-sponsored candidates debate held at the International Brotherhood of Teamsters union hall.

Supporters of the socialist campaign wrapped up a successful petitioning effort over the August 8-9 weekend to place Rosenfeld and Rebecca Williamson, for City Council Ward 1, on the ballot.

“We have to face the truth about the economic depression and its consequences for working people. This is the deepest economic and social crisis any of us in this room have ever experienced—and despite the talk about recovery, the crisis is just beginning. We will face growing unemployment, expanding wars, and efforts to radically restructure our standard of living,” Rosenfeld told the gathering of 40 unionists August 11.

Several local unions—including those representing government workers, Teamsters, painters, and plumbers—formed the Workers United coalition to host the city council candidates’ forum. Bob Gilmore of the Painters and Allied Trades International Union moderated the forum and posed several questions to the panelists.  
‘Put working class in political power’
Most on the panel echoed the pro-business views of candidate Leisha Barcus who said “retaining and recruiting new businesses” was among her top priorities. Rosenfeld said the top priority for workers needs to be “defending our capacity to fight in our own interests. We need to build the foundations of solidarity by fighting for unemployment compensation at union scale for everyone until they find a job, for universal lifetime medical care, and to legalize all immigrant workers. We need to build a revolutionary movement that can put the working class in political power.”

Candidate David Adelman, a former member of the Iowa Democratic State Central Committee, said it was “atrocious” that workers from outside of Des Moines and Iowa were working at a large construction site near Des Moines. Rosenfeld differed sharply, explaining that such a course divides workers and weakens our capacity to organize an effective fight against the bosses.

“Workers should reject that kind of thinking, just as we should reject the idea that those born in the United States are more deserving of jobs here than workers born in another country,” Rosenfeld said. “We have to build a strong, united workers movement that defends all workers, no matter what country you were born in or what piece of paper you may have in your pocket.”

When the forum moderator asked the candidates to say how they would close the city’s budget shortfall, most of the candidates spoke about more efficient management and cutting out waste. Rosenfeld said, “Workers create the wealth, but much of it is simply stolen from us by the bosses and their government in the form of profits and taxes. Workers should pay no income taxes.”

“I will fight tooth and nail against every cutback designed to make workers pay for the capitalists’ crisis-ridden system,” Rosenfeld said.

After the forum, a young staff member of the local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, which organizes government workers, asked Rosenfeld whether he thought that pro-union legislation was key to reversing the decline of the unions. Rosenfeld answered, “The key to building the unions is workers learning to organize themselves to rely on their own collective strength and to fight in their own class interests. No bill in Congress or in the City Council will do that for us.”  
Successful petitioning effort
The invitation to participate in the candidates’ debate is the first fruit of the successful petitioning effort here. More than 600 workers and youth signed petitions to place Rosenfeld and Williamson on the ballot, triple the requirement.

Among those campaigning for the Socialist Workers ticket were five college students. “I really liked the experience of going out into the public and seeing what people think,” said Leah Morrison, a student at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota. “I met many young people who are worried about the economy. They liked what we had to say.”

Following the successful day of campaigning, in which 38 copies of the campaign newspaper the Militant were sold, volunteers attended a barbecue and campaign rally at the campaign headquarters. Williamson and Rosenfeld were featured on the panel, along with Tom Fiske, Socialist Workers candidate for mayor of Minneapolis, and Betsy Farley, a leader of the Socialist Workers Party from Chicago.

In the discussion period, Erik Soltvedt-Decker, a freshman at Hamline University in St. Paul, asked, “What is the most important thing for supporters of the Socialist Workers campaign to be doing?” Williamson and Rosenfeld encouraged him and others in attendance to join in the countermobilization in Omaha, Nebraska, over the August 28-29 weekend against plans by the rightist outfit Operation Rescue to harass the abortion clinic of Dr. LeRoy Carhart.

More than $200 was raised in a collection at the forum and at a party held afterwards.

Maggie Trowe contributed to this article.
Related articles:
N.Y. socialist candidates back workers’ fights  
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