SWP meeting in California maps out bold 2024 campaign

By Maggie Trowe
July 24, 2023
Laura Garza, rail worker and SWP candidate for U.S. Senate from California, joins hotel workers in UNITE HERE Local 11 on strike picket line July 2 at InterContinental Hotel in Los Angeles.
MilitantLaura Garza, rail worker and SWP candidate for U.S. Senate from California, joins hotel workers in UNITE HERE Local 11 on strike picket line July 2 at InterContinental Hotel in Los Angeles.

LOS ANGELES — “Laura Garza is not just a Socialist Workers Party candidate in California. This is a campaign for the working class in the United States,” Alyson Kennedy, SWP candidate for mayor of Fort Worth, Texas, last May, told more than 40 people at a meeting here to support Garza’s campaign for U.S. Senate. “Socialists will use the California example to increase our political work across the country.” A longtime trade unionist, Garza is a freight rail conductor and member of the SMART-TD union.

The week before the meeting Garza joined picket lines of striking UNITE HERE Local 11 hotel workers. Her campaign supporters also joined “practice picketing” by Teamsters in Riverside as the July 31 UPS contract expiration nears.

“Hotel workers told us they don’t earn enough to live near their jobs,” Garza said. “They make long, costly drives, and then the hotel charges them $10 a day to park!”

The fight by workers for the ability to start and maintain a family is a key part of the SWP campaign, Garza said. “Workers have to spend so many hours working and traveling that they have no time left to be with their children, to rest, to read, to go to a union meeting. Rail workers have such grueling schedules that some say BNSF — Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway — really stands for, ‘Better not start a family.’

“The SWP calls for cutting the workweek to 30 hours with no cut in pay, for cost-of-living adjustments for wages and benefits to offset inflation, for supplemental income for those whose wages don’t make ends meet,” Garza said. “We call for a federally funded public works program to create jobs at union scale building child care centers, hospitals and other things working people need. These also are key for women’s emancipation.”

The public meeting took place after SWP members from across the state met in a convention to discuss the political priorities and make plans for this bold working-class campaign. Party members from Fort Worth, Seattle and Albuquerque, New Mexico, also attended the meeting.

Defend constitutional freedoms

“The capitalist rulers have escalated attacks on constitutional freedoms working people have fought for,” Betsey Stone, a leader of the SWP and organizer of the party’s Oakland branch, said in the political report to the meeting. “The Joseph Biden administration, cheered by liberals and the left, is leading a witch hunt against Donald Trump, Biden’s chief opponent in the 2024 election for president.

“A witch hunt means they start with who they want to jail, then find charges to make that happen, using FBI spying, wiretaps and raids, violating constitutional protections, including the presumption of innocence.”

Biden and his supporters promote hysteria against Trump by labeling the millions who voted for him as “semi-fascists,” Stone said, “justifying trampling on constitutional freedoms as they try to jail him.”

David Brooks recently wrote a New York Times op-ed titled, “This is not the time for a third presidential candidate.” It said, “A second Trump presidency represents an unprecedented threat to our democracy. In my view, our sole focus should be to defeat Trump.”

“This kind of hysteria will reinforce efforts to restrict access to ballot status by working-class parties like the SWP,” Stone said.

“Many workers are asking, ‘Is it OK for a politician to try to get his main opponent thrown in jail?’” Garza told the campaign forum. “‘To forbid the accused access to evidence? To threaten any lawyer who defends Trump with reprisal?’ Our campaign explains that if they can do this to Donald Trump, they will do it to working people.”

“The FBI carried out an armed raid against the African People’s Socialist Party last year,” Garza said. The government has accused APSP leader Omali Yeshitela and two supporters of endangering national security, of working on behalf of the Russian government in a campaign to spread pro-Moscow propaganda and influence local elections. They face up to 15 years in prison.

“The SWP says: Drop the charges!”

Solidarity with union struggles

“My Democratic party opponents — Adam Schiff, Katherine Porter and Barbara Lee — all claim they are ‘friends of labor,’” Garza said. “But they voted for Biden’s imposition of a contract on rail unionists after the workers voted to strike last year.”

Vincent Auger, SWP candidate for Seattle City Council, encouraged solidarity with members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada, whose strike has shut down all British Columbia ports since July 1. Auger and Henry Dennison, SWP candidate for King County Council, recently joined the dockworkers’ picket lines.

“They’re fighting against contracting out work and for higher wages. A picket told me a 600-square-foot condo in Vancouver costs $1 million. Talk about difficulty forming a family!” Auger said. He also described the battle farmworkers in Central Washington state are waging to win union recognition and a contract and the SWP’s demand for amnesty for all immigrants working in the U.S. to unify the working class.

The unionization rate in the U.S. today is low, Garza said, “but that can change when workers struggle and others get inspired. Every victory can have an impact on the next set of fights and awaken workers to our ability to change things. We learn we have the ability to build a powerful labor movement, break from the capitalist parties and form our own party, a labor party based on the unions.

“The working class can form a workers and farmers government capable of wresting power from the capitalist minority,” she said. “The Cuban Revolution showed this is possible with revolutionary leadership. My campaign fights for an end to Washington’s bipartisan economic war against the Cuban Revolution.”

Join the campaign!

Garza and Kennedy denounced the invasion of Ukraine by the capitalist government of Russia and defended Ukrainian workers and farmers fighting for their country’s sovereignty, while at the same time opposing Washington’s war machine.

During the discussion a participant said he thought the Putin regime in Russia was justified in taking military action in Ukraine to counter “NATO encirclement” and Ukrainian fascists.

“The Militant sent a reporting team to Ukraine during the 2014 Maidan uprising against the repressive Moscow-backed government of Victor Yanukovych,” Garza said. “This was a mass mobilization led by hundreds of thousands of working people demanding their rights, not a fascist movement.” She encouraged people to read the Militant’s online coverage of the Maidan available on the paper’s website.

The statewide SWP convention laid out ambitious plans to campaign across the state and beyond in coming weeks.

“We’ll be campaigning in rural California as well as metropolitan areas,” Garza said, meeting with small farmers and other small proprietors as well as farmworkers. “The SWP campaign will talk with working people in towns near the Mexican border, in rural counties to the north and in the area around Tulare Lake near Corcoran, where record rain and snow last winter has resulted in the reappearance of a lake that was drained out of existence for irrigation 100 years ago, inundating land and houses.”

To join the effort, or make a contribution, contact the SWP campaign office nearest you.