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‘We stand with workers trying to organize unions’
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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 68/No. 38October 19, 2004

lead article
‘We stand with workers
trying to organize unions’
We support right of oppressed nations to
economic development, says socialist in Iowa
Militant/Pat Miller
Bob Butero (left), United Mine Workers of America District 4 director, speaking October 2 at one-year anniversary celebration of the start of the union-organizing fight at Co-Op mine in Huntington, Utah. Over 100 miners, unionists, and other supporters of their struggle attended the event, including SWP candidate for president Róger Calero. The day after the union rally Calero spoke at a socialist campaign meeting in Price (see article in this issue). Before Utah, Calero campaigned in Iowa.

DES MOINES, Iowa—“We say it’s not enough to be against Bush and have to hold your nose to vote for Democratic Party nominee John Kerry,” said Róger Calero, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. president. He was addressing a September 30 campaign rally here, which was part of a two-day speaking tour of this Midwestern state.

“We say that what matters above all is what you stand and fight for, not who you are against. We stand with the workers and farmers in this country and around the world who are resisting the effects of the system of class exploitation and national oppression—capitalism and imperialism—who are resisting speed-up, the extension of the work day, and declining real wages.

“Workers need to organize unions and strengthen those we have to defend ourselves from the bosses’ assaults on our working conditions and wages. We are running into an increasing number of workers who are making their own the demand to have a union.”

The SWP campaign platform begins with the world, Calero pointed out. “We support the right of nations oppressed by imperialism to develop modern forms of electricity generation by any means necessary, including nuclear power. Electrification is a precondition for economic development and for closing the gap between city and countryside and forging unity of working people necessary to fight for their interests,” he said.

“Under the banner of ‘non-proliferation,’ the ruling class of the only government that has ever used nuclear weapons, Washington, and other imperialist powers—all of which generate a part of their energy through nuclear plants— are trying to prevent countries such as Iran, Brazil, and north Korea from developing nuclear energy. Everywhere we go, we expose this as a fraud and ask people to oppose it,” he said.

A worker originally from Central America, who is collaborating with fellow workers to unionize a produce packing operation near Des Moines, asked the socialist candidate, “How can we get the boss to accept the union?”

Calero responded that only an effective fight can force the employers to accept the union. He pointed to the example of the struggle the Co-Op miners in Utah are waging (see article in this issue).

The SWP candidate also described a meeting at an area restaurant the day before with seven sewing machine operators who work at a nonunion sewing plant in central Iowa and are trying to figure out how to confront questions of safety, forced overtime, pay disparity, and arbitrary firings on the job. “A number of them are trying to figure out how to organize a union, too,” he said.

All of these workers were among 14 who had recently signed a solidarity card and taken up a collection to support the Co-Op miners, most of whom are originally from Mexico, on the occasion of the one-year anniversary of their fight for union recognition.

One of the sewers asked Calero how to answer those workers who say, “Why should we support Mexican workers who are taking U.S. jobs?” She pointed out that some workers say they wouldn’t want the jobs at the Co-Op mine anyway.

“Yes, but we are not fighting for equality in bad jobs,” Calero replied. “Some self-styled immigrant rights leaders say that immigrants do the lowest paying, hardest, and most dangerous jobs in the country and therefore should be afforded rights. Our campaign says we have to fight together—immigrants and native born—to improve the conditions and pay and defend the rights of all workers. In this fight, the workers at Co-Op are actually leading the labor movement.We should do everything we can therefore to support the Co-Op miners, by actions such as you here took.”

The socialist campaign is different from those of the capitalist candidates, Calero told the sewing machine operators. “We don’t say, ‘Vote for me and everything will improve.’ We don’t promise anything except to fight together for our interests—for a living standard and unity of workers and farmers not only in this country but internationally,” he said.

One worker originally from the Philippines said she was particularly impressed by the last point Calero made and repeated twice to other workers on the job next day.

These discussions are widespread in the working class, Calero said at the campaign rally. While campaigning outside the gate of the Tyson meatpacking plant in Perry, Iowa, where the socialist candidate once worked, Calero met Ignacio Villa, his former union steward. Villa told Calero that one of his co-workers who worked at Tyson and now works at a meatpacking plant in Des Moines, called Pine Ridge Farms (formally Iowa Pack) is interested in working with other workers to get the union organized.

Edwin Fruit, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa, chaired the campaign meeting, telling the audience that Calero was on his way to the Co-Op miners’ anniversary rally in Huntington, Utah, the next day.

In his talk, Calero also explained that the SWP election campaign demand to back the right of power-poor semicolonial countries to develop electrification by any means they deem appropriate is needed to build working-class solidarity across borders. Workers in Mexico and other oppressed countries are forced to immigrate to the U.S. because Washington and its allies have kept these nations underdeveloped through imperialist domination, making conditions of life and work intolerable, Calero said.

The demand for electrification, Calero added, also applies to sections of the United States such as the Appalachian Mountain region and Native American lands in the West.

In response to this point, one participant said that she grew up near the Pine Ridge Indian reservation in South Dakota and that the same lack of electrification that existed then on reservations continues today, even though large tracts of uranium-rich lands have been taken over and declared off limits by the U.S. government.

Calero campaigned at the Iowa State university campus as well. He also met with a leader of the Immigrant Rights Network in Des Moines who volunteered to spread the word about the socialist campaign and to help in securing protest messages against the September 11 firebombing of the Socialist Workers campaign hall in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.
Related articles:
Campaigning for SWP slate nets ‘Militant’ subs
Penn. socialists step up campaigning in wake of arson attack
SWP candidate for vice president speaks at Florida NAACP convention
Calero speaks to coal miners, others in Utah
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