Workers must fight to
defend class interests
Socialist campaigns for L.A. mayor
Left: James Harris, Socialist Workers candidate for Los Angeles mayor, campaigning outside grocery store February 14. Right: Harris speaks at December 20 protest against killing of Christian Portillo by Los Angeles County cop.
BY ARLENE RUBINSTEIN
LOS ANGELESWorking people need to put our interests as a class first, and we need to fight, said James Harris, the Socialist Workers candidate for mayor in a special election here.
Harris and his supporters talked with workers at a shopping center near his campaign office in the West Adams workers district. They gave out copies of his campaign brochure that includes demands such as shortening the workweek with no cut in pay to spread the available work around, and that the federal government provide jobs, through a massive public works program at union-scale wages to build schools, hospitals, roads, and other infrastructure.
The California legislature held an all-night budget session this weekend but failed to reach agreement on a package of cuts that include $8 billion in public schools and community colleges and $890 million in cuts for state colleges and universities. Tuition rates have been steadily increasing for years.
Cost-of-living increases for welfare recipients will be eliminated and maximum payments for a family of three would be less than what a similar sized family received in 1989. More than $830 million will be cut for early childhood and mental-health programs.
In addition to $459 million in transit cuts, car registration fees will almost double, parking meters have already quadrupled in some cases, and a new 12-cents-per-gallon tax on gasoline will be levied. Sales tax in Los Angles County will soar to 9.75 percent.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he intends to lay off 10,000 state workers.
Schwarzenegger has already ordered that more than 238,000 state workers take two unpaid days off per month. On February 6, some state offices were closed on Friday for the first time. Officials of the Service Employees International Union Local 1000 reached a tentative agreement with Schwarzenegger to reduce the furloughs to one day a month for about 95,000 of its members. This agreement has not been ratified by the union membership.
Capitalist politicians try to convince us there is some fixed pool of money called the state budget and that when this budget runs into the red, they must cut. They try to convince us to think about the state budget like its your household budget. But balancing the budgetwhether the state or city budgetis simply a set of code words for making working people bear the weight of the economic crisis. There is no equality of sacrifice under capitalism.
You dont sell bonds for example to finance your household, explained Harris. One of the things my campaign is explaining is how state bonds, which are one of the favorite investments of the very rich, are cash cows used to expand the wealth of the ruling rich at the expense of working people.
According to Article 13B, Section 7 of the California State Constitution, the bondholders must be paid on time, in full, and forever, not just their original capital investment, but also the interestinterest that makes the original investment be repaid many times over.
Let me give you an example. In 2008, Proposition 1A, a bond for building high-speed train service, was adopted. In the voters handbook it stated the cost of the bond is $19.4 billion$9.95 billion for the principal and $9.5 billion for interest payments. Thats almost $2 for every $1 invested. The debt-service or interest on this one bond is more than the $8.89 billion in education cuts that are being proposed in the California budget.
As the discussion turned to unemployment, several more workers stopped to listen and participate.
No, Im not affected by the economic crisis, Kay Livingston told Harris with a smile. I just work three part-time jobs and theres cutbacks on all of them.
I think the Republicans really hate this country, Livingston said as the discussion continued.
The problem, responded Harris, is both capitalist partiesthe Democrats and the Republicans. President Barack Obama, for example, said that the purpose of his stimulus plan is to save or create up to 3.5 million jobs. But what he is really doing is propping up the same capitalist system that is responsible for the crisis.
But stimulating the corporations, banks, and capitalist financial institutions doesnt mean jobs for workers. When President Obama took his sales pitch to Peoria, Illinois, the home of Caterpillar tractor, Obama told the press that the Caterpillar CEO James Owens told him hed rehire some of the 22,000 workers that are laid off from that company if the stimulus plan passed. But Owens held his own press conference and said that wasnt realistic. He said that, even if he got the stimulus, more layoffs are ahead.
It took me two months to get my first check, said Laurie Pemberton. If you need someone to talk on this, Im a good speaker.
Pembertons experience is all too familiar to the unemployed in California.
Vernal Coleman, a Teamster with 16 years and nine months at his job, also reported he hadnt received a penny after being unemployed for more than a month. Im facing foreclosure on my house, but I received a letter because they say I didnt put the date on my claim. They have my phone number, call me up.
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