Paul Pederson, a packinghouse worker who is the Socialist Workers candidate for U.S. Congress in the 12th district, visited striking members of the International Longshoremen’s Association on the Brooklyn waterfront August 21. He and campaign supporter Sara Lobman extended their solidarity to the 50 dockworkers, who had walked out the previous day to oppose the company’s cutthroat concession demands. A group of workers gathered to talk about their fight. Many learned for the first time from the Militant about the West Coast longshore union battle, and were outraged at the U.S. government’s union-busting intervention in it. One striker, originally from Cuba, warmly shook Pederson’s hand and urged him to come back to continue the discussion.
Each Sunday campaigners have fanned out to working-class neighborhoods around the city. On August 18, Hawkins and Pederson soap-boxed with supporters in Brooklyn. Several workers and others signed up for more information about the campaign and 11 purchased the Militant or Pathfinder books.
Pederson campaigned in front of a union-organized meatpacking plant where he had previously worked. "I spoke to many workers I knew, who gave us a very friendly response. One stood at our campaign table to encourage others to come over." Several days later, a co-worker invited him over to his house and introduced the socialist candidate to family and neighbors. And recently, a taxi driver invited him to his home to discuss politics and bought the Militant to read more about the U.S. war drive against Iraq, which he opposes, and the Palestinian struggle, which he supports.
Young socialists campaign
After their first two weeks of electioneering, the Young Socialists for Koppel and Hawkins held their first meeting August 18 and mapped out plans to follow up with a growing number of youth they have met who have expressed interest in campaigning with them for the socialist alternative. They also discussed getting together with students they know about setting up speaking events for the candidates on their campuses when the fall semester starts.
The young socialists and other campaigners have found support in areas throughout New York--from Manhattan’s Garment District to Harlem to Washington Heights. On August 20 Margaret Trowe, a garment worker who is running for U.S. Congress in the 14th district, took a bullhorn and the milk crate that serves as her "soap box" and led campaign supporters out to the Garment District’s bustling Eighth Avenue. She and other campaigners met a student from Baruch College who endorsed the campaign, bought a Militant subscription, and offered to set up a get-together with his friends to meet the socialist candidates.
In the Garment District, socialist candidates campaigned two weeks in a row in front of a building filled with sewing shops. Trowe, Jack Willey, who is running for state comptroller, and others passed out flyers and introduced workers to Perspectiva Mundial and the Militant. Trowe met two women who are trying to organize a union in their shop. Both wanted to meet up to learn more about getting involved in the campaign.
Over the past two weeks, Trowe and Willey have soap-boxed in Harlem, joined by an increasing number of supporters who have taken their turn at the bullhorn for a few minutes. They found particular interest in the socialist candidates’ unconditional opposition to U.S. imperialism’s war preparations against Iraq; their demand of jobs for all by reducing the workweek with no cut in pay; and their defense of affirmative action with quotas, which takes on added importance at a time of increased layoffs. The Socialist Workers Party is the only party in the workers movement that is running a campaign in New York.
A subway track maintenance worker stopped by the communist literature table when he learned that the Socialist Workers campaign supported the bus drivers recently on strike in Queens. He said Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration claims it no longer has funds to cover full medical benefits and instead insists the transit union will have to take concessions when the contract expires in December.
After the union garment shop where Trowe works announced a 10-day layoff, in what has been a series of shutdowns and short weeks over the summer, many workers were outraged. On the way out of the plant, a co-worker bought a subscription to Perspectiva Mundial after talking to Trowe, who spoke about the trap the bosses--often echoed by the trade union officialdom--promote by blaming joblessness on workers from other countries in order to divert working people from fighting the real cause of unemployment--the bosses themselves.
In Washington Heights, William Estrada, candidate for Congress in the 15th district, received a good response to his street-corner talks. The U.S. drive toward war against Iraq sparked quite a bit of discussion. Throughout the last few weeks, campaigners have sold several copies of the New International issue in English, French, or Spanish with the feature article on "The Opening Guns of World War III: Washington’s Assault on Iraq." Others have been attracted to the perspective of building a party capable of leading working people to take power, and some of them have been particularly interested in the pamphlet The Working-Class and the Transformation of Learning: The Fraud of Education Reform Under Capitalism.
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‘Capitalism has nothing to offer’
SWP candidate in Iowa gains ballot status
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