PHILADELPHIA — “The Socialist Workers Party candidates, John Staggs for City Council at-large and myself for mayor, are both workers at Walmart,” Osborne Hart told Robert Taylor, a truck driver and Teamsters union member, as Taylor signed a nominating petition on his doorstep in the Port Richmond neighborhood here July 18.
As of July 21 more than 1,200 people have signed to put the socialist candidates on the ballot. Campaign supporters go door to door in working-class neighborhoods and join labor rallies, protests against police brutality and other actions, discussing political developments from Iran and Greece to fights against boss attacks and the example of the Cuban Revolution. The SWP is going to sign up 1,000 over the required 1,325 signatures and file on July 31.
“I never shop at Walmart. I’m union and they fight against having a union,” Taylor said.
“We don’t ask people not to shop there,” Hart said. “We say, ‘Support our fight for higher wages, regular hours and a union.’ The percentage of workers in this country who are union members is the lowest it’s been. Workers fighting for $15 an hour and a union at Walmart, McDonald’s and elsewhere are leading the fight to change that.
“We need our own political party, a labor party based on the unions, a party that can bring workers together, build solidarity and confront the crisis we face,” Hart said. “Such a party can bring together workers’ battles on the job, fight to defend jobs, safety conditions and political and social rights. It can point the road to working people taking political power.”
“Workers face attacks all over the world — look at what’s happening in Greece today,” he said. “There’s a world crisis of capitalism and we need to respond as a class.”
Protest against police abuseEarlier that day Hart and campaign supporters joined a protest demanding freedom for 22-year-old Tyree Carroll, who is imprisoned on frame-up drug charges after being brutally beaten by some 26 Philadelphia cops April 3.
His grandmother Nancy Carroll and other relatives said Tyree was stopped for riding his bicycle the wrong way on a one-way street and then attacked. A neighbor caught the beating on video.
After beating him, the cops took Carroll to the hospital, claiming he was hurt, “intentionally striking his own head against the protective shield located in the police vehicle.”
Ten family members and other marchers signed to put the SWP campaign on the ballot.
The night before, Hart, Staggs and Carmen Guerrero, a leader of efforts to defend the human and political rights of immigrant workers in the Philadelphia suburb of Norristown, spoke at the weekly Militant Labor Forum.
Staggs pointed to battles brewing as the United Steelworkers and United Auto Workers enter talks with the bosses over contracts that expire in September. ArcelorMittal has two steel mills in the Philadelphia area.
“With the downturn in capitalist production and trade worldwide and the cooling off of expansion and production in China, steel bosses face shrinking markets and fierce competition,” he said. “U.S. Steel has laid off thousands of workers and told 9,000 more they may be next. These bosses want the workers to take more concessions to try and protect their profits.”
“I’m proud to support the campaign,” Guerrero said. “As workers we need to make our own power. It is time to fight for real change, and to do that we need a revolution in our consciousness.
“I am proud that I am one of those invited to come to Washington, D.C., and join the celebration at the reopening of the Cuban Embassy there after decades,” she said. “This is a big victory and the Cuban Revolution is an example for all of us.”
Independence for Puerto RicoSunday morning, Pastor José Díaz invited Hart to the Christ and St. Ambrose Episcopal Church in Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican community. Hart and other SWP members had worked with Díaz to build the May 30 demonstration demanding freedom for Puerto Rican independence fighter Oscar López, who has been imprisoned in the U.S. for more than 34 years.
“The worldwide crisis of capitalism is responsible for what is happening to workers here, in Greece and in your home of Puerto Rico,” Hart said. “U.S. bondholders bought up Puerto Rico’s bonds, seeking to make a killing. Now, when the colonial government says the spiraling debt is unpayable, they try to make workers on the island bear the burden. We oppose this assault on the working class and support the fight for independence for Puerto Rico.
“We join you in campaigning for freedom for Oscar López,” he said. “Oscar, as many of you know, is a supporter of the Cuban Revolution. We join with him in pointing to the Cuban people’s unbroken record of solidarity with workers and farmers throughout the world — from Puerto Rico to Angola and elsewhere.”
Forty members of the congregation signed petitions when church members passed them up and down the rows.
Tuesday morning campaign supporters Chris Hoeppner and Mitchel Rosenberg went with Staggs to the Port Richmond neighborhood.
“Chris and I went two blocks in a little over two hours, knocking on doors, and got 58 signatures,” Rosenberg, an oil refinery worker, said. “I talked to a woman named Debbie who is unemployed. She signed and got her daughter to sign.
“She said she really liked what the campaign had to say about the Confederate battle flag coming down, about how it brings workers together,” he said. “She took my phone number to get a subscription to the Militant when she gets her check.”
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