“I’m the only worker in this race for mayor,” Fitzsimmons told a meeting at the campaign headquarters here August 23. “The current mayor, Democrat Annise Parker, touts her ability to bring businesses to Houston and provide jobs. But the success story she talks about is not the reality the working class in Houston lives.
“Almost 25 percent of working people in this city live below the poverty line and more are without health insurance,” Fitzsimmons said. “And we know what attracts business here — the small number of unions, which makes it easier for the bosses and their government to disregard safety and environmental hazards. The number of workers killed on the job in Texas over the last year rose by nearly 100 to 433.” More than 100 of those who died were construction workers, many of them undocumented.
The socialist campaign has been going door to door visiting workers to discuss the need for a big raise in the minimum wage and a massive, government-funded public works program to provide jobs for millions thrown out of work building schools, housing, hospitals, day care centers and other things workers need. “These demands strike a chord with workers we’ve met, whether they are employed or unemployed,” Fitzsimmons said. “Many have also told us that they or another family member are unable to get a job because of jail time they did in the past.”
Attending the SWP campaign meeting was Adriana Ruiz, whose husband works at a fast-food spot. “I’m for a big increase in the minimum wage, but we shouldn’t stop there,” Ruiz said during the discussion. “Unionization would help make sure workers are treated fairly and to deal with problems like being denied scheduled pay raises. People argue that raising wages will cause inflation, but prices have been going up for a long time and wages haven’t!”
Fitzsimmons has also been discussing the fight of fast-food workers and the need for a higher minimum wage with co-workers at the Houston oil-tool factory where he works. “The fast-food workers have a point about wages. And what you said about their fight being in the interests of all workers is true. We should get behind them,” co-worker Kenneth McBeath, 27, told Fitzsimmons.
Co-workers, unionists and other campaign supporters donated $1,250 to meet the required filing fee.
The SWP campaign will join with all those forces fighting to reverse attempts to gut the Voting Rights Act in the wake of the June Supreme Court ruling that struck down a key section of that law, Fitzsimmons said. Already, the mayor of Pasadena, emboldened by the high court, has proposed redistricting plans that will make it harder for candidates to be elected from Black and Hispanic communities.
“We oppose anything that makes it more difficult for workers to participate in politics,” the socialist candidate said, “whether it be redistricting or the Texas Voter ID law.”
Wherever the socialist campaign goes, Fitzsimmons said, it introduces workers to the fight to free the Cuban Five. (See article on front page.)
“The Cuban Five are an example for U.S. workers of the kind of working class revolutionaries that the Cuban Revolution has produced,” Fitzsimmons said. “They are an example for all of us, and their fight particularly resonates with those who have experienced the cops, courts, and prisons up close.”
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