‘What matters most are
fights by working people’
SWP candidates join in labor, social battles
James Harris, Socialist Workers candidate for U.S. president, speaks at Chicago protest demanding release of prisoners framed under cop torture. At left Mark Clements, one of those tortured by Commander Jon Burge. Clements was freed as case against cops gained support.
BY ALYSON KENNEDY
AND WILLIE COTTON
“We’re out here today to support your fight,” James Harris, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president, told members of Machinists union Local 851, who were picketing July 20 outside Caterpillar’s hydraulics plant in Joliet, Ill., where some 780 workers have been on strike since May 1.
“At every campaign stop we extend solidarity to workers in struggle and learn the truth about their struggles so we can tell other workers about them,” said Harris, who was in the Chicago area for three days as part of a national campaign tour.
Harris and Maura DeLuca, SWP candidate for vice president, are running a working class, labor, socialist campaign that joins with workers resisting attacks from the bosses and their government and engages fighters in a discussion on how the working class can unite, fight more effectively, and chart a course toward independent political action.
Caterpillar, which is posting high profits, is demanding deep cuts from workers. The bosses’ assault against the Machinists is being closely watched by employers around the country.
“One of the big issues in our fight is wages,” Jeff Burch, one of the strikers, told Harris. “We’ve received cost-of-living increases but haven’t received a contractual raise in years.”
“They like to tell us we’re overpaid,” said striker John Horniak. “But they get gigantic bonuses every year and golden parachutes when they retire or leave.”
Both Burch and Horniak are CNC machinists with more than a decade experience. “Some people have told us that this is not the best time to strike. But the way I see it, it won’t be any better six years from now,” said Horniak.
Harris was joined in Joliet by John Hawkins, SWP candidate for Congress in Illinois’ 1st District. They were interviewed by the local Herald News.
“James Harris’ presidential campaign doesn’t make promises,” began the article. “The Socialist Workers Party candidate instead meets with struggling working-class people and speaks with them about what is needed to fight for better lives.”
“People are finding less work and people who do work are working longer hours, working harder and earning less,” Harris told the Herald News. “Real change to fix these conditions comes not from electoral politics but from mass, organized labor. … We want to talk to working people about taking political power, and establishing a government that working people control.”
In Chicago, Harris was invited to speak at a demonstration in front of a police station demanding the release of victims of police torture. Mark Clements, a protest organizer, said, “Six years ago the Cook County Special Prosecutor issued a report documenting an epidemic of police torture in Chicago. Twenty-three known torture victims are still in prison.”
“I am very proud to be here,” Harris told protesters. “Everywhere I go people are standing up to this. This is not a justice system for working people, but a system of brutality and coercion designed to inspire terror in working people, to keep us from fighting.”
Harris was interviewed by the editor of the North Lawndale Community News, which covers the city’s Westside Black community. Fifteen high school students studying journalism at the newspaper joined the interview.
The final day of the Chicago leg of the tour ended with a lively campaign forum. Harris was joined by a panel of fighters, including Clements; Ralph Peterson, a leader of a fight against the police torture and killing of his cousin and other cop brutality cases in North Chicago; young socialist John Stachelski; Tracey Johnson, a member of the Painters union and the Young Workers Organization; and Hawkins.
“One thing I like about brother James Harris is that as soon as he arrived in Chicago he went to our picket line,” Clements told the participants.
“One of the primary things we want to do is have a discussion,” Harris responded. “To learn, come up with a plan. I am honored to be here with these fighters.
“The SWP campaign is about reaching out to workers in struggle. Why? Because these are the centers of education for working people. It doesn’t matter who is elected president. What matters is whether working people fight.”
DeLuca meets with Calif. workers
“It is important to support union struggles or groups of workers that may not have a formal union but act as one,” Maura DeLuca said July 19 at a spirited campaign house meeting of 15 in South San Francisco.
“The company protects its people, we need to protect ours,” added Gerardo Sánchez, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate in California, as he introduced Marisol Guerrero, an industrial kitchen worker.
Guerrero was suspended and subsequently fired by Flying Food Group on allegations of mislabeling products. Sánchez, who works there with Guerrero, chaired the meeting. Workers at Flying Food are represented by UNITE HERE.
Guerrero explained she and several other coworkers were victimized on mislabeling charges before and suspended for three days. She got support from the union, and 62 of her 100 coworkers signed a petition demanding she return to work with back pay.
Also on the panel was Dolores Piper, aunt of Derrick Gaines, a 15 year old who was fatally shot in the back by a South San Francisco police officer June 5. “I want to reach out and tell as many people as possible that the actions of the police were extremely reckless,” she told the meeting. Piper and Derrick’s parents are filing a lawsuit against the police.
Several participants in the meeting joined DeLuca as she traveled to Madera, Calif., to learn more about the recent victory at Gargiulo Inc., where farmworkers voted to be represented by the United Farm Workers after a two-day strike.
While campaigning at a grocery store in Madera, DeLuca met Eutracia Garcia, a UFW supporter. She told DeLuca that in order to maintain the brutal pace of work, growers hire younger workers and discriminate against those with more experience.
Many of the discussions outside the grocery store focused on the increase in deportations of immigrants over the past several years. “Whether a worker has papers or not, they should treat us right,” said Garcia. “We are all human beings.”
“The bosses try to divide us, and to use the fact that workers are not documented to try to intimidate us,” DeLuca pointed out. “Fighting against the attacks on immigrant workers will put the working class in a stronger position.”
DeLuca flew from northern California to join supporters of a woman’s right to choose abortion July 21 in defending the Family Reproductive Health clinic in Charlotte, N.C., from a “clinic siege” organized by Operation Rescue/Operation Save America.
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