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Organize! Use union power to resist bosses attacks; for a labor party, based on the unions, that fights in the interests of workers and farmers
U.S. troops out of Iraq! Back right of semicolonial countries to get sources of energy they need, including nuclear energy, for economic development
SWP presidential candidate in L.A.,
on last stretch of U.S. campaign tour
Militant/Nick Castle(left) and Militant/Ted Leonard(right)
Róger Calero (above, left), SWP candidate for president, campaigns October 19 outside Farmer John pork slaughterhouse near Los Angeles. Calero's running mate Arrin Hawkins (right) campaigns October 15 at Sterlingwear garment plant in Boston.
BY NAOMI CRAINE
LOS ANGELESI hope you do something good for us, a worker coming out of the Farmer John meatpacking plant said October 19 as he shook the hand of Róger Calero, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president, who was on the last stretch of his campaign tour across the country.
The question is what were going to do together, Calero replied. The SWP campaign, he said, champions the need of workers to organize unions and make the existing unions more effective so that workers can fight the bosses attacks on wages and working conditions.
In discussions at the plant gate, Calero pointed to the tearing up of union contracts by US Airways four days earlier. The employers try to fool workers by pointing to a bankruptcy court ruling backing US Airways request to void the contracts, Calero said. But its the bosses who threw out the contracts and are cutting wages, saying they need it for the companys survival. The court, whose job is to preserve the capital of the ruling families, went along. If we mobilize union power to focus our fire on the bosses its not for sure theyll go ahead with the cuts. And if they say theyll carry out their threats to shut down, as some will, we should say that if a company cant provide decent wages, benefits, and safety then it doesnt deserve to stay in business.
If these companies move anywhere in the country, or anywhere in the world, Calero said, the union should collaborate with workers there to organize and fight the bosses at their new location.
We need our own political voice, independent of the capitalist parties, Calero continued. Thats why the SWP campaign is for a labor party, based on the unions, that fights in the interests of workers and farmers 365 days a year, not only in the United States but around the world. Prospects for such a party grow out of the struggle to organize and strengthen the unions, Calero stated.
The SWP candidate pointed to the recent pressure by Washington and other imperialist powers on the government of Brazil to let United Nations inspectors into its nuclear plants. The socialists have been exposing this hypocritical campaign by U.S. imperialism and its allies to prevent governments they target from developing the energy sources they need, including nuclear energy, he said. Electrification is needed for economic development, which is a precondition for social and political advances by working people in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, he stated.
Calero and other socialist campaigners got a warm response among hundreds of workers going in and out of Farmer John, a large pork slaughterhouse. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770 organizes the plant, which employs more than 1,300 workers. A good number of workers, however, are not members of the union.
One problem is that the company hires temporary workers, a worker from the pork cuts department told Calero. They work for three months and then theyre out the door. They never get into the union.
We need to look at how we can fight for better conditions for all of us, including temporary workers, Calero said. We have to show that the union can count. When they try to fire someone, do we go to the office together? Do we fight on the shop floor to keep the workers job? We have to focus not on what we can lose if we fight, but what we can win if we stick together. He pointed to the example of Co-Op miners in Utah fighting to win representation by the United Mine Workers of America. These workers are organizing collectively against every attack by the company, including insisting on their own translators when the bosses try to fire union militants, he said.
Another worker said he had been at the company six years and conditions were really bad. He wanted to find another job.
A lot of people say they will go somewhere else, but many of those other jobs are bad too. We cant avoid the struggle, either at this plant or anywhere else we go, said Calero.
SWP candidates for U.S. Congress Seth Dellinger and Wendy Lyons, who are running in Californias 33rd and 34th Districts, respectively, joined Calero for campaigning at the Farmer John plant gate when they got off work. Lyons works at Farmer John and Dellinger works at a subsidiary plant across the street.
The next day, Calero spoke to about 100 students in two classes at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. After a brief presentation, students peppered Calero with questions about his campaign, his party, and the SWP platform.
Cecilia, a young woman with two children, described how she had been denied unemployment benefits and did not know what to do.
That goes to the heart of our campaign, Calero responded. Working people produce all the wealth in society, along with nature. The working class struggled to win unemployment benefits and the bosses try to whittle away at them. Jobless benefits are part of a safety net workers fought for, which is necessary to keep them together, to maintain working-class solidarity, that is, human solidarity, he said. They help workers undercut the dog-eat-dog competition fostered by capitalism between those who have jobs and those who dont. The rulers teach the opposite, that this a handout, he said.
The SWP campaign calls for a massive federally funded public works program that would put millions to work and meet pressing social needslike building schools and hospitals, and repairing roads and bridges. We need to combine the fight for this kind of jobs program with the defense of measures that affect all workersunemployment, workers compensation, and Social Security, Calero said. In fact, the labor movement needs to mount a fight for the extension of Social Security so that it includes cradle-to-grave medical coverage for all.
You said 2 billion people are living without electricity. What kind of countries is that happening in? another student asked.
Calero pointed to a photo that appeared in the Militant earlier this year of the border area between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The hills on the Haitian side are almost completely bare of trees. Most Haitians do not have electricity or any other modern energy, and have to use firewood or charcoal to cook that they can only get from cutting down the trees. The resulting deforestation has meant devastating floods and thousands of unnecessary deaths. These conditions are imposed by imperialism, he pointed out.
In Brazil, he said, one of the most industrialized Third World countries, nearly 40 percent of the rural population is without electricity and 10 percent overall. The problem is more acute in Asia and Africa.
We also need to look at the question of electrification in this country, Calero added. There are millions of people in the United States who have to decide monthly between food and the electric bill. There are parts of Mississippi and the Navajo Nation that still have no electricity. In big cities like Miami, there is ample electricity in most neighborhoods; but areas like Little Haiti have few street lights.
What can you do when they try to deport you? another student asked, referring to the successful fight that prevented the U.S. government from deporting Calero last year. Thats my question too, another student said. How do you fight?
We reached out and won broad solidarity in the fight against the governments attempt to deport me, said Calero. To wage a fight we need two things: political clarity and to mobilize all the forces that will respond. I had the help of my party, the SWP, in organizing this kind of defense.
Always remember that working people are the majority, Calero continued. Mobilizing solidarity is possible because of that fact. Its the opposite of what we
are taught from day one: Look out for number one. Solidarity is crucial to fighting attempts to victimize any section of the working class.
During his visit here, Calero also campaigned outside American Apparel, a sewing factory with 2,000 workers, and in the downtown garment district. He was interviewed by La Opinión, AP, and EFE.
Seth Dellinger and Nan Bailey contributed to this article.
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