JULIETTE, Ga. — Signs were visible in yards all around this rural Georgia town of 1,500 near Macon that read “Georgia Power: Clean Up Your Trash!” when Rachele Fruit, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate, campaigned here March 7.
Some 6 million tons of coal ash is produced each year in Georgia, among the highest in the country, most from 11 Georgia Power coal-fired plants, including the Scherer facility here. The company stores the coal ash, which contains toxic metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury and uranium, in 29 ash ponds.
Judy Sands told the SWP candidate that she has been drinking only bottled water for years. She said there is only one person assigned to test water in her area: “They’re just dragging their feet.” Most residents rely on well water — but she’s still on a waiting list.
“That’s because the capitalists don’t care about us,” Fruit said. Workers and consumers need to get together and fight to make the power bosses open their books. “Workers need to have control of production at our workplaces and utilities like Georgia Power. It’s the only way we can really know what the bosses are doing and can organize an effective fight for safety and against them polluting the environment,” Fruit added.
Sands recently retired from a food packaging plant. She worked for nearly two decades in nearby textile mills, where she was part of efforts to win a union in 1970. “They just didn’t want to pay the money we deserved and change any of the conditions,” she said. At two locations bosses shut down plants to block the union drive. Sands decided to get a subscription to the Militant.
When she heard Fruit was running against both Democrats and Republicans, retired registered nurse Vivian Fargason invited Fruit and campaign supporter Janice Lynn into her home.
“I didn’t vote for any of them in the last elections,” she said. “They knew about this coal ash 30 years ago. Why couldn’t they have done something?”
“It wasn’t profitable,” Fruit replied. “Under capitalism that is the bottom line.”
“Georgia Power says they have a ‘third party’ testing the water,” Fargason said. “But Georgia Power is paying this company, so how can they be trusted?
“I used to be in the middle class,” she said, “but now I know what it is to be poor.” Despite having health insurance, she can’t afford to go to the doctor because of the large copays. “It’s immoral,” she said, explaining one of her neighbors recently died from liver cancer. “When they tested his well water, it came back very elevated in chemicals.”
“The Socialist Workers Party campaign calls for universal, government-guaranteed cradle-to-grave health care and retirement income,” Fruit said. “This is different than calls for Medicare For All, which is just another form of insurance with a bloated government bureaucracy. We are for small government — health centers in every neighborhood like they have in Cuba that treat everyone, including practicing preventative medicine to keep people from getting sick. That’s an example of what workers and farmers can accomplish when we make a revolution.”