Tuesday, July 17, 2012

US SWP presidential candidate campaigns in Keokuk, Iowa

Socialist Workers Party candidate stops in Keokuk
By Steve Dunn/Managing Editor

Published: Monday, July 16, 2012

It appears Iowans will have an alternative to President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney when they go to the polls in November.

Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate James Harris stopped in Keokuk Saturday to talk to workers and drum up support for an independent movement away from the Democratic and Republican parties.

"There needs to be revolutionary change in America," said Harris, a veteran trade unionist who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1996 and 2000. "Until we take power and organize ourselves, we'll bear the full brunt of the economic crisis. That's why we're talking to working class people, farmers and young people."

Not only did Harris talk to Henniges Automotive employees at Saturday's Farmers Market in Keokuk, but also he spoke with union members and others at a house meeting. The audience at the latter event included workers who were locked out of their jobs by Roquette America, Inc., for 10 months during 2010 and 2011 after the union rejected Roquette's contract offer.

Harris said he does not want to replace labor unions.

"We see them as a real necessity for the working class," he said. "Unions are a key component to the advancement of working people and people are becoming more aware of it. Real wages have declined the past 30 years so we try to talk to people about the necessity of unions."

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Neither major party represents the working class, even the Democratic Party, which has been closely identified with labor unions for several years, Harris believes.

"The main parties represent the ruling class now so it doesn't matter which one gets elected," he said.

Harris is concerned about the lack of a jobs program even though unemployment in most states is still relatively high.

"The only way we'll get a massive jobs program is if the working class organizes and forces it on the government," he said. "I'd like something better than the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in the 1930s, which was minimal."

In essence, he wants a jobs program with union wages that is controlled by working people.

Some of the other major issues include immigrant rights, abortion rights and police brutality, he said.

"Twelve million people work here (in the U.S.) but don't have legal rights and work at low wages," he said. "We want them in the union movement. All of it just drags down our wages and working conditions."

A flier distributed by Harris says, "To qualitatively drive down the expectations and living conditions of working people, the capitalists have massively increased the number of workers in prisons, jails or on probation or parole. This is buttressed by 'stop and frisk,' cop brutality, the plea-bargain system and more. All these hit disproportionately at workers who are black.

"They have scapegoated immigrant workers, striving to keep them in second-class status, subject to superexploitation with few rights. They have stepped up attacks on women's right to choose abortion."

How is this year different than the other years he ran for president?

"People are much more receptive to what we're saying as socialists because the conditions of life have changed so much for workers," Harris said. "They're making less and having a harder time getting health insurance and paying more for it, so working people are searching for another alternative."

Harris believes he can get his name on the ballot in at least nine states in November, including Iowa. It will take at least 1,500 signatures to get his name on the ballot in the Hawkeye state. He and his supporters spent Saturday morning collecting signatures as well as talking to potential supporters and local media. He planned to spend Saturday night at another function in Des Moines.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Harris was a founding member of the Black Student Union at Cleveland State University, where he organized student demonstrations against racist practices at the college.

After joining the Student Mobilization Committee Against the War in Vietnam, he helped organize national antiwar mobilizations and defending the right of active-duty GIs to speak out against the war.

After getting a job on the line at a Ford auto plant in New Jersey in 1978, he became active in the United Auto Workers Union.

He also has traveled extensively while representing the Socialist Workers Party.

He has lived in Los Angeles since 2006. He was the party's candidate for mayor of Los Angeles in 2009 and for U.S. Senate in 2010. He currently is a member of the Union of Needletrades Industrial and Textile Employees.

He joined and built support for marches calling for the arrest and prosecution of George Zimmerman in the death of Trayvon Martin.

His running mate for president this year is Maura DeLuca. DuLuca is a member of the party's National Committee and a welder at Kawasaki Motors in Lincoln, Neb. Earlier this year, she moved to Lincoln from Des Moines where she worked in nearby Newton at TPI Composites, a wind turbine blade manufacturer. She grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa.

For more information about Harris' campaign, email socworknatlcamp@sbglobal.net or call 212-736-2540.

http://www.dailygate.com/articles/2012/07/16/news/doc50040c8d9bccc697180162.txt

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