FRESNO, Calif. — This Militant correspondent joined farmer Will Scott and rail worker Laura Garza to discuss the stakes for working people in standing together with rail unions in their fight against attacks by the bosses and government. We visited Scott’s farm outside this city in the San Joaquin Valley Dec. 2.
Scott is president of the African American Farmers of California and produces hull beans, tomatoes and other vegetables on 45 acres. Garza is a rail conductor and member of the Socialist Workers Party.
“Rail workers have faced deteriorating and dangerous conditions for years,” Garza said. “Bosses try to divide workers and farmers, blaming rail workers if things shut down. The White House and Congress prevented a strike and imposed a contract that the majority of rail workers had voted down.”
“Workers and farmers have a relationship and they can’t drive us apart,” Scott replied. “We’re both producing something for the good of society. You have to fight. You have the right to strike.”
Rail workers face ever-smaller crews, increasingly dangerous working conditions, on-call schedules, harsh attendance policies and a lack of paid sick leave. Garza said the government’s attack on rail unions was part of broader assaults on constitutional freedoms. She pointed to recent FBI harassment of people who are supporters of the Cuban Revolution in Puerto Rico, in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.
“I hold the Constitution up there with the Bible,” Scott said. He described the treatment meted out to African Americans by the courts and cops. “My people have been hit hard by arrests and imprisonment and then can’t vote. There are two things that have harmed my people: plea bargaining and welfare.”
Welfare dependency was the opposite of what working people need, Garza said. “We need a fight for jobs and a supplemental income if the wage is not enough to live on. A guaranteed income keeps people on the job where they can be part of union struggles. It makes the working class stronger.”
“There’s not much difference between Democrats and Republicans,” Scott added. “I hope Biden doesn’t run again. Maybe somebody will run who will work with people.”
“Workers and farmers are the only ones who can change things,” I said, “but we need experience and organization.”
“What we need is a society where people care for and help each other,” Scott replied. “I want to see how Cuban farmers do things.”
He said he would like to join other farmers traveling to see Cuba for themselves. Garza described the fight to end the U.S. rulers’ brutal economic war against the Cuban people, aimed at overturning their socialist revolution.
If he visits Cuba, Scott said, maybe the FBI will target him, as it did when it harassed people from Puerto Rico who traveled to Cuba to bring solidarity to the fight against the U.S. embargo. “You have the right to refuse to speak to them and you should use it,” Garza said. That’s what Cuba solidarity activists did in Puerto Rico, she said, describing their years of experience with FBI frame-ups in the course of the fight to end U.S. colonial rule.