NEW YORK — “All drivers just need to turn off their apps for a few hours and refuse to take any rides. Uber and Lyft would have to listen to us,” an Uber driver and immigrant from Nigeria here told Seth Galinsky, the Socialist Workers Party’s candidate for New York City Public Advocate. Galinsky met this driver and others Feb. 17 at an area airport to introduce them to his campaign and the Socialist Workers Party.
“If you did that, that would be the start of getting organized,” Galinsky said.
The worker described how the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission defends the companies. “And [Gov.] Cuomo and [Mayor] de Blasio don’t do anything for us. The Democrats are supposed to be the party of working people,” he said.
“The Democrats and Republicans are both parties of the bosses,” Galinsky said. “That’s why we need our own voice, our own working-class party and why we can’t depend on them to get better wages, benefits or relief from the conditions we face.” Most drivers said they work six days a week, many 10 hours a day or more.
“We need one union for all the drivers — Uber and all e-hail drivers, yellow and green taxis and black limo drivers in one union,” Galinsky explained.
The Uber driver bought The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record: Why Washington Fears Working People by Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes and In Defense of the US Working Class by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters. He also got a copy of the Militant and gave a $7 contribution to the campaign.
Galinsky discussed with drivers originally from Bangladesh, the Republic of Georgia, Nigeria, Romania, Tibet and elsewhere. One older Bangladeshi worker said, “You can’t do anything. We’ve tried it all, going on strike, protesting at the Taxi and Limousine Commission. You can’t unite the drivers.”
“We need a union, you’re right,” another driver said. He was a Yellow Cab driver before signing up with Uber. “One stick by itself can be easily broken,” he said, “but when you put the sticks together they can’t be broken.” He got a copy of In Defense of the US Working Class.
Galinsky told drivers he was running to promote solidarity, to urge working people to find ways to overcome divisions among us, to forge unity, to get organized in unions, to strengthen existing unions — all to win better wages, benefits and working conditions. The Socialist Workers Party candidate and supporters are discussing with workers across New York the challenges all working people face, including drivers.
Campaigning at workers’ doorsteps
The backbone of Galinsky’s campaign, and of SWP candidates and supporters across the country, is to get in their cars and head out, stopping in towns, cities and rural areas to knock on doors in working-class neighborhoods.
Their goal is to get into discussions, to learn about the political questions on workers’ minds — from developments in Venezuela to the yellow vest protests in France to the economic and social crisis facing workers and farmers, small proprietors and the self-employed today.
SWP members introduce the party and a wide array of books by party leaders and other revolutionaries worldwide to read, study and discuss, as well as the Militant. Out of this, the party’s reach can be expanded and fresh forces won to join party campaigns.
SWP members are also campaigning to build the April 21-May 5 International May Day Brigade to Cuba. This is an opportunity for workers and young people to learn firsthand about the revolution and its example for workers worldwide. At the same time participants can tell Cuban workers and farmers about the class struggle in the U.S. and the activities they’re involved in.
Joins picketing nurses
Galinsky also joined an action by nurses at Mt. Sinai Hospital Feb. 13, one of 13 informational picket lines by nurses fighting for a new contract around the city. The New York State Nurses Association is in negotiations with privately owned hospital bosses here.
Picketers told Galinsky and his supporters that their central demand is for the hospitals to hire more nurses, lowering the patient-to-nurse ratio. Staffing levels are too low for nurses to give patients the care that they deserve.
Union officials gave a shout out to Galinsky for joining their protest and offered him the opportunity to take the bullhorn. “Nurses have a right to decent working conditions,” Galinsky told picketers. “Health care is a right. You’re fighting not just for yourselves but for all of us.”
The SWP candidate raised with many nurses what he had seen in revolutionary Cuba. “In the U.S. when you walk into a hospital the first thing they ask is ‘do you have insurance?’” he said. “In Cuba, because of their revolution, they just ask, ‘What’s wrong? How can we help you?’ They don’t have health insurance, they have health care. Under capitalism health care is just a commodity.”
Galinsky told the nurses that as he and his supporters campaign door to door in working-class areas, he will spread the word about their fight.
The following day, Galinsky campaigned outside the federal Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn talking to family members and friends visiting inmates locked up inside.
A couple of weeks ago, during a freezing spell, the center was the site of protests after word got out that the jail had no heat or electricity. Prison officials covered it up and dragged their feet getting it fixed.
Sarita Ricaurter, whose husband has been locked up there for nearly two years awaiting trial and sentencing, spoke with Galinsky and supporter Don Mackle as she came out after a visit.
Last time she came to visit, she said, “We didn’t even know that there was no heat,” she said. “The officials said there were no social visits allowed, no phone calls, but they didn’t say why, so we left without seeing my husband.”
Then she saw a video about the prison having no heat, and she said “that’s where my husband’s in prison!
“That’s how I heard about the protest and I was here Saturday and Sunday” joining in the action.
“It was important you took part,” Galinsky said. “And it had an impact. It shows the power working people have when we come together, stand up and fight.”
Ricaurter said she was proud she joined the protest.
Many family members eagerly took Galinsky’s campaign flyers and three got copies of the Militant. One gave a $4 donation.
Readers are invited to send in reports for this column, as well as photos, to enrich the paper each week.
To join in or to find out more, contact the SWP or Communist League branch nearest you. (See directory.)