As you will see from the reports below, the times are alive with unionists and other activists busy discussing ideas, strategizing, organizing — and defying police intimidation. The Freedom Socialist Party 2012 presidential campaign is, of course, in the thick of things.
You can read more about the campaign at VoteSocialism.com. But it’s worth noting that Durham-López 2012 has raised more than $24,000 to date — not bad for a thoroughly grass-roots, working-class effort!
Durham protests NATO in the Windy City
by Hilary Bowker & Mark Drummond
The Durham-López campaign banner waved high and proud amidst the nearly 20,000 protesters at the international mobilization in Chicago against NATO’s war and poverty agenda.
A broad spectrum of liberals, leftists, students, unionists and occupiers marched together on May 20, led by a courageous battalion of anti-war military veterans. At the end of the march, the vets each relayed their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and hurled their war medals toward the site where the NATO summit was in progress. The riot cops made their move shortly afterward.
The police riot that followed was designed to justify the millions spent on a multi-state security force to smother free speech and intimidate demonstrators. FS 2012 Presidential candidate Durham and his team narrowly evaded the cops’ billy clubs, and issued an immediate eyewitness account and denunciation.
The show of force did not suppress the week of spirited dissent, which included counter-summits, and protests by nurses, mental health providers and patients, teachers and free speech advocates. We met hundreds of people who shared our vision for dumping the rotting system.
López and ILWU Local 5 take up the big issues
by Emma Allen
Vice-presidential candidate Christina López spoke at the union hall of Powell’s Bookstore employees, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 5 in Portland, Ore. The May 17th event held unionists, students, and the general public in rapt attention as López described her Chicana background and coming of working age in Arizona. In that notorious right-to-work state she fought alongside other AFSCME members (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) for fair wages, and organized with the Chicano/a student organization MEChA to defeat racist English-only laws.
Attendees grappled with urgent developments in labor organizing, legislative threats to women’s reproductive rights, bigotry against immigrant workers, and the false hopes of the Dream Act. López explained that this act is a ploy to recruit to the military, not ensure citizenship, and answered queries on why the Durham-López campaign call for dismantling the Pentagon.
She brought a confident message to the energized audience concluding that, with the labor battles in Wisconsin and militancy of the Occupy movement, we’re getting only a taste of the power our side truly has.
Battle-tested AFSCME delegates are dubious about twin parties
by Steve Hoffman
Two weeks after Wisconsin governor Scott Walker survived a recall, the main union that organized the failed recall effort gathered in Los Angeles from June 18 to 22 to chart its course for coming battles. Thousands of AFSCME delegates, proud of the public services they provide, knew that they face more budget cuts, privatization, and attacks on the union’s basic right to exist.
In fightback mode, participants at this 40th International Convention liked the Mark Twain adage, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” At an early morning workshop on higher education, delegates eagerly shared information on mobilizing and student/labor coalitions on campus. Generally, delegates were not looking to President Obama, who’s done zilch to defend bargaining rights for public workers.
Most were actually more concerned about the convention election of a new union president than who would win the White House. In between debating affirmative action and political spending on the floor, this delegate from Seattle Local 304 joined an AFSCME retiree from Los Angeles to distribute well-received FS 2012 campaign flyers, “Lessons of the Wisconsin recall” (see a downloadable version at VoteSocialism.com). To FSP candidates’ call for a labor party many responded, “It’s time!”
SEIU convention: delegates pass single-payer resolution
by Susan Williams
Officials of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) made their message very clear to the thirty-five hundred delegates and guests at the Convention in Denver May 27-30. Lit with purple lights, played from giant flat screens, and thundered to mega-amped music was “Re-electing Obama is Job 1.”
But at the opening session of the Healthcare Division, I raised the call for Labor to create its own, independent political voice and explained why I endorse a unionist and socialist for president — a message that resonated with many rank-and-filers. While handing out campaign flyers and carrying a Durham-López banner in the protest against Wells Fargo Bank, two of us FS Presidential campaign supporters heard from other SEIU members of their criticisms of Obama and openness to an alternative.
Despite the highly orchestrated proceedings, the convention passed a resolution presented by Doctors Council, Local 10MD for single-payer health care. Originally drafted by me and another SEIUer who supports the Durham-López ticket, the resolution falls short of the FS campaign’s platform for nationalization of the healthcare industry. But it brings SEIU an important step forward in the fight for universal coverage.
From California, to Illinois to upstate New York, new supporters in SEIU have signed on to the FS campaign’s e-list and are planning to write-in Durham and López on November 6.
Engaging with union activists at Labor Notes
By Nancy Reiko Kato
Durham-López supporters joined the Labor Notes conference in Chicago on May 4-6. Over 1500 trade union activists gathered around the theme of “Solidarity with the 99%”. They came from the ranks of labor who confront union bureaucrats, organize strikes, link arms with workers throughout the world and build locals that defend workers’ rights.
When participants saw the “Politics is about to change — here come the socialists” headline of the Freedom Socialist newspaper, they happily took information on the Durham-López 2012 presidential campaign. Recognizing the Democratic Party’s ongoing sellout of workers, many attendees were focused on how to work with the Occupy movements to defend against the assaults by the 1 percent, not doorbelling for Dems.
FS 2012 protest campaign backers who attended the conference were a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 in Portland, Ore. and a former member of the University Professional & Technical Workers-Communications Workers of America Local 9119 in Berkeley, Calif. We talked with numbers of other unionists intent on strengthening the labor movement in these urgent times.
Also see: FSP among contenders for Peace and Freedom Party nod
Also see: Why I joined the Freedom Socialist Party
Read more about the Durham-López campaign at VoteSocialism.com.