The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 68/No. 34           September 21, 2004  
Socialists campaign in Alabama mill town
At the end of week one, the international drive to win more than 3,000 new readers to the Militant and its Spanish-language sister publication Perspectiva Mundial is on target, with 381 subscriptions to the Militant and 73 to PM.

An example of winning these subscribers was a team of socialists that visited several coal mines along the western slope of the Rockies. Four coal miners subscribed to the Militant there and dozens bought copies of the paper. At the August 28-29 United Farm Workers (UFW) convention, in Fresno, California, attendees bought 90 books and pamphlets from a literature table socialists set up inside the UFW meeting hall; 19 also subscribed, 13 to the Militant and 6 to Perspectiva Mundial.

Printed below is an article sent in by readers in Birmingham, Alabama. It shows the results of effective campaigning for the Socialist Workers Party 2004 ticket, combined with winning new readers to the Militant and PM and selling books and pamphlets on world politics and the class struggle, like those listed in the ad on page 6.


SYLACAUGA, Alabama—“I worked in a union place before,” said Edwin, 29, who has worked at Avondale Mills here for six months. “There you would get overtime for any work over eight hours, not like Avondale, where you work for 12 hours each shift, with no overtime pay. In companies that aren’t union, you’re really treated badly. I wish everyone was for the union.”

The textile mill worker told campaigners for the Socialist Workers Party 2004 ticket of Róger Calero for president and Arrin Hawkins for vice president that he liked the campaign’s support for workers’ right to organize unions. “I like that part of your plan,” he said.

Edwin was speaking at a picnic several mill workers organized for Janine Dukes, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate in Alabama. The event took place September 4 at Noble Park here. Dukes is a weaver at the Avondale mill, which is also known as Eva Jane.

Avondale Mills, Inc., is one of the largest textile producers in the country. Its mill here produces denim. It employs 1,200 workers and is located in a part of Alabama that has traditionally been a center for the textile industry in the state. The workforce includes workers who are Black and white, as well as a growing number of Latinos, mainly from Mexico. Sylacauga is a classic company town, with most of the public buildings named “Comer” after the family that founded Avondale.

Before the picnic, socialist campaigners went door-to-door to visit a number of textile workers and others in this town, about 55 miles southeast of Birmingham.

“I know you!” said James, an Avondale worker, who opened the first door socialist campaigners knocked on. He recognized Dukes right away and signed up for a Militant subscription. Another Eva Jane worker, Alma, bought a subscription to Perspectiva Mundial, the Militant’s sister monthly publication in Spanish.

A third worker who subscribed had worked at Eva Jane earlier and now has a job at a nearby quarry.

After an hour and a half of door-to-door campaigning, socialists joined a group of textile workers and family members at Noble Park, who came to meet Dukes and learn more about the socialist campaign. One worker, Carol, 31, who has worked at the mill for two years, helped organize and build the event among co-workers, friends, and family.

Campaign supporters reserved a pavilion in the park in case of rain and arranged an attractive display of campaign literature and signs on the picnic tables.

After Dukes outlined some of the main themes of the campaign, a discussion broke out about the first demand on the SWP platform: “Support workers’ right to organize unions and to defend themselves from the bosses’ assaults.” Despite the company’s anti-union propaganda, this demand produces a strong response among workers at Avondale. None of the company’s mills are organized.

Conditions at the Sylacauga mill are getting worse, as the bosses try to squeeze more and more out of fewer workers, Dukes said. Like many other textile mills, Eva Jane employees work 12-hour shifts. On many jobs workers get only two 15-minute breaks during the shift. In addition, the bosses are increasing the number of machines workers have to tend.

“They don’t pay you enough,” said Carol. “Plus we have no breaks, people are losing weight and getting sick.”

“The [cotton] dust will kill you,” added Edwin.

“They treat you like a slave,” said Carol. “The creel hands have to come in half an hour early to get set up on their job, and they don’t even get paid for it.”

As the meeting ended, Carol said she was already thinking about how to build the next campaign event.

Two workers at the picnic bought subscriptions to the Militant and one bought a copy of the pamphlet The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning: The Fraud of Education Reform Under Capitalism.

At the end of the day, socialists campaigned at the 6 p.m. shift change, at two of the mill gates. Workers there bought nine copies of the Militant, and one purchased a subscription to the newsweekly. A worker who has a job at another company and happened to be driving by also stopped and signed up for a Militant sub.

The total for the day was 12 copies of the Militant and six Militant subscriptions and one subscription to Perspectiva Mundial. Campaigners are looking forward to a return visit.

Janine Dukes and Jeanne FitzMaurice contributed to this article.
Related articles:
Mississippi: Socialist Workers beat back red-baiting attack
SWP ticket also on ballot in Louisiana

Letter to ‘Jackson Advocate’ from backers of SWP ticket in Mississippi  
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