T.O. No. 79: After the Midterms – Antiwar Days of Action – LCIP Forum – Housing – Britain Strikes
The ORGANIZER Newsletter
Issue No. 79 (December 23, 2022)
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IN THIS ISSUE:
• After the Midterm Elections, What Way Forward? – By Coral Wheeler
• “We Did It in Iraq and Afghanistan, Why Not in Ukraine!” – by J.A.
• Dec. 9-11: International Days of Action Against War and Exploitation – by Dominique Ferre
• “Which Side Are You On?” – by Sandy Eaton, Labor Fightback Network
• LCIP Forum: Learning from Past Mistakes – by Millie Phillips at LCIP December 11 Forum
• California Tenants Fight Back – by Millie Phillips
• Britain: Government Calls in the Army Against the Strikers – by Jean-Pierre Barrois
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After the Midterm Elections, What Way Forward?
By Coral Wheeler
It’s long past the time that the labor movement stops kidding itself. The Democratic Party’s anti-labor policies and practices are more and more being carried out in the open for the whole world to see. After the recent midterm elections in the United States, we must turn this legitimate disillusionment into real momentum to build working-class power.
Democrats: no friends of labor
The recent decision of the U.S. Congress to impose a contract on thousands of railroad workers demanding paid sick leave, followed by the brutal imposition of the anti-labor Railway Labor Act to remove these same workers’ right to strike, should be more than enough for any pro-union activist to immediately drop their support for the Democratic Party.
Urging Congress to impose a contract settlement that had been previously rejected by a majority of rail workers and by the thousands who voted “NO’ in other unions, President Biden has put to rest any lingering illusions that he is anything but an enemy to labor. What is more fundamental for a worker than the right to strike?
Although the majority of the top rail worker union’s leadership and the AFL-CIO still refuse to see that Biden and the Democrats are their class enemy, the anger many people feel with the Democrats, as well as with the Republicans, can be seen in the increasing number of people who support the formation of a third party.
Voters reject attacks on abortion rights and voting rights
Democrats managed to avoid the so-called “Red Wave,” the tendency for the voters to choose the opposition party to run Congress in the first midterm election after a new president. This was in part due to the record turnout among young voters, the second-highest rate in the past 30 years. These young people came to the polls to cast their ballot primarily to protest Republicans’ recent attacks on abortion rights.
The Republicans stacked the Supreme Court with right-wing judges during the Bush and Trump presidencies, in part through a blatantly hypocritical stunt where the Senate refused to confirm one of Obama’s appointees. Now the Supreme Court is a political powerhouse, overturning Roe v Wade — which has protected women’s choice and bodily autonomy since 1977 — as well as making a recent slew of anti-environmental and anti-worker rulings.
Women, particularly young women, came out to fight against this generational encroachment on our rights. We came out not necessarily because we have faith in the Democratic politicians (they had over 40 years to codify Roe and failed to do so), but because we felt the need to put a stop to this assault on abortion rights.
Voters also came out to the polls to defend the democratic right to vote. From gerrymandering, to voter ID laws, to open denial of election results and support for the attempted coup that took place in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2020, Republican politicians have shown their anti-democratic stripes.
We in Socialist Organizer are no fans of our electoral system. So long as the Electoral College and Senate filibuster are in place, so long as proportional representation is shunned, so long as tax-paying immigrants and released inmates are denied the right to vote, to name just a few undemocratic facets of our institutions, there is no real democracy, just a veneer. But we fight to defend the hard-won democratic gains that working people fought so hard to win.
Democrats fight against the people’s right to choose their own candidates
On Sunday, December 11, Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) held a forum titled, “Midterm elections: Which way forward to build an independent working‑class party NOW?”
Forum participants were informed that it’s not only the Republican Party that actively suppresses the people’s right to democratically elect their leaders.
Donna Dewitt, president emerita of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, reported that in North Carolina, the Libertarian Party received 1.4% of the vote, while the Greens got 0.8%. While this was far lower than the margin between the two major candidates, the Democratic Party was initially worried about these candidates, and filed a lawsuit attempting to keep the Green Party candidate off the ballot by claiming their signatures were gathered fraudulently.
Ultimately an August ruling by a U.S. District Court judge ordered the State Board of Elections to allow the Green Party on the ballot.
In South Carolina — the only state where the Labor Party has maintained ballot status — the Democratic Party attacks on democracy were even more pronounced. Dewitt, who co-chairs the South Carolina Labor Party (SCLP), told the gathered participants about how the Democratic Party, with the help of the state AFL-CIO, made a cynical but successful bid to keep the SCLP’s three statewide candidates off the ballot. They did so by citing a violation of an election law determining convention dates. It was infuriating that the Democratic Party also violated this same law and that this fact was not allowed to be brought up in court.
After a rushed and unfair legal process, for which the SCLP was not given time to find an appropriate lawyer, a district court judge ordered the SC Election Commission to remove the three SCLP candidates from the ballot.
Democrats vote for the war budget, threaten to bring about World War III
In addition to subverting these democratic processes and consistently fighting against viable leftist third-party candidates, the Democratic Party has shown where their priorities lie by consistently voting in favor of an expanded military budget.
In 2021, Democrats with strong ties to the military establishment voted with Republicans to add nearly $24 billion to the defense budget for fiscal year 2022, boosting Biden’s $715 billion spending proposal to $738.9 billion. And just this month, the U.S. House of Representatives paved the way for the defense budget to hit a record $858 billion next year, in this case $45 billion more than proposed by President Biden.
The Democrats are even more fervent in their financial support for the proxy war with Russia. Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $20.3 billion in security assistance to Ukraine, more than $18.2 billion of that since January 2021.
While many people listed the fact that democracy itself is at stake, as well as the right to an abortion, as their reasons for turning out to the polls, the threat of nuclear war was not a top issue for voters. The unanimous support for the war in Ukraine by Democrats (all wings) and Republicans has enabled the corporate media to cover up the imperialist nature of this war.
This is also a sign of just how weak the anti-war movement has become. Atomized and without a clear set of demands, we are failing to get the message across that this war is avoidable, dangerous, and unjust. We need a reinvigorated anti-war movement in this country again, or the Democrats and their allies in the media will lead us headlong into WWIII.
Such an antiwar movement, moreover, can only be built on a mass, broad-base scale if it demands Russian troops out of Ukraine and US/NATO troops out of Ukraine, while focusing on the escalating war budget and the failure to fund human needs back home.
At the same time that the Democratic Party was voting to increase military spending, they consistently allowed votes for important social programs to be subverted by their conservative minority and their refusal to eliminate the undemocratic filibuster in the Senate.
Despite running on a pro-labor and pro-immigrant platform, the Democratic Party failed to pass the PRO-Act, the Citizenship Act, the Women’s Health Protection Act, or any meaningful legislation in support of working people.
Now, despite the lack of the expected Red Wave, the Democrats have lost control of the House of Representatives. The divided Congress will allow the Democrats even more cover for failing to pass much-needed laws protecting vulnerable communities, not to mention any jobs or infrastructure bills.
The crisis of working-class leadership
Despite the mounting attacks on working people from both ruling parties, the top leadership of the AFL-CIO and of the country’s major unions refuse to break with the Democratic Party. The most recent example of this can be seen in the response from top officials of the railway conductors’ union and the head of the AFL-CIO’s transportation department to the vote to impose the contract on railway workers and take away their right to strike. All praised Biden for his “help at the negotiating table.”
Unions, as usual, helped push back the expected Red Wave. The AFL-CIO organized hard in nine battleground states, reaching out to 7.7 million union members nationwide about the issues and candidates. The top leadership’s subservience to the Democrats continues to misdirect this organizing powerhouse to do the bidding of the bosses rather than the working class.
The tens of millions of dollars funneled to the Democrats through their COPE contributions, and the hundreds of thousands of hours spent by union members doing phone-banking and door-knocking could – and should – be spent running independent working-class candidates that truly represent workers’ interests, not candidates who, despite their pro-labor rhetoric, are in the pocket of the bosses.
What way forward for independent politics?
So then, as people become more and more disillusioned with the two-party system and continue to leave both the Democrat and Republican parties, what way forward for the working class?
We in Socialist Organizer have joined together with other labor and community-based organizations to form Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP). At the December 11 LCIP forum, Connie White spoke on behalf of the LCIP continuations committee. She explained the two prongs of LCIP: to promote running independent labor-community candidates at a local and state level around a platform that embraces workers’ and communities’ pressing demands, and to promote widely in the trade union movement a committee that calls on labor to break with the Democratic Party and advocates for a Labor-Based Political Party.
[For more information about LCIP and/or to get involved, go to lcipcommittee.org]
At the forum, attended by over 50 activists from across the country, White led a discussion about the concept of a working-class party and around issue-based organizing. Through organizing around issues that are important to the working class in communities we live in, LCIP brings activists together who agree with our two founding principles, and together we build a labor and community coalition that not only works to get candidates elected in our cities, starting from the bottom up, but that holds our candidates accountable after they are elected.
In some places, LCIP is just getting started. Alan Benjamin, member of The Organizer Editorial Board and a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, told the meeting attendees about two elections in California in which LCIP had hoped to run candidates. While neither of those elections was ultimately successful, Benjamin said, important progress was recently made by the UPP in Maryland, a supporter of LCIP.
Baltimore and UPP show the way forward — build working-class power
“Voting for neoliberalism is not an answer to fascism or capitalism! The electoral arena is not a substitute for building workers’ power and struggling against the forces of capital!” This was the message given to the LCIP forum attendees by Nnamdi Lumumba of the Ujima People’s Progress Party, a Black-led workers party in Maryland.
Lumumba started by explaining that, for an average working-class person in this country, things haven’t changed much, and in many cases have gotten much worse since the Democrats took over. Prices are on the rise, wages are stagnant, police brutality and attacks on immigrants are still here.
Despite the loud talk during and following the uprising in the summer of 2020 against police brutality focused largely on the murder of George Floyd, little to nothing has changed in terms of community control over the police, and rather than defunding police departments, many cities have taken the reckoning of that summer as an excuse to increase police budgets under the guise of “more training.”
Only through building working-class power will this change. And this was the most salient point of Lumumba’s presentation — that “we aren’t struggling to win elections, we’re struggling to build working-class power.” Elections are only a part of that. Through building labor and community coalitions, we build a base for actions, train new activists, and hold our activist politicians accountable. We build power outside the electoral arena as well as inside.
In Maryland now, UPP is producing a “poor folks civics education, steeped in working-class critiques of the government and how it’s structured.” They now are setting up this political education on campuses and in prisons. Lumumba stressed that through this strategy, we can win real struggles, push back the State, and build institutions that serve real working-class families and people.
This is the way forward after the Midterm elections. Yes, more and more people are becoming disillusioned with the Democrats, but as the right continues its march toward fascism. Disillusionment isn’t enough. We must show a different way. Through issue-based organizing, we gather like-minded working-class activists around us. We work in our labor unions to form committees that advocate for the formation of a Labor Party, which in turn helps drive people to the labor and community coalitions. We run campaigns and candidates who come out of these coalitions. Our goal is to build working-class power.
Ultimately, elections alone won’t bring about the end of capitalism. Through using the electoral arena to build working-class consciousness, educating our members and allies, gaining real-world experience in the struggle against the ruling class, we will build the assemblies and the working-class power to achieve a new society, a socialist society, for everyone!
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“We Did It in Iraq and Afghanistan, Why Not in Ukraine!”
On December 8, NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg announced that 2023 could be the year of “total war in Europe and with China, which is defying us.” On December 14, NATO adopted its civilian and military budgets for 2023: up by 27.8% and 25.8% respectively. (source: NATO website)
Who will pay? The NATO member states.
The European Union is not to be outdone. Its member states will “buy weapons together to replenish their stocks after supplying Ukraine,” states the European defense agency (December 16). This is because “the United States will inevitably be engaged in the Asia-Pacific region,” meaning in its preparations for war against China.
In the meantime, arms deliveries to Ukraine have been ratcheted up a dangerous notch. The Biden administration has decided to supply its infamous Patriot missiles, while French President Macron and Meloni, the Italian prime minister, will supply the European version of these missiles: the Mamba. Sectors of the ruling class are concerned: “The delivery of these formidable systems would mark an ‘increased commitment’ by the United States, France and Italy; Moscow considers that these deliveries constitute a provocation with ‘that will aggravate seriously the current conflict’.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
How, then, will the NATO governments ensure Ukraine’s access to these missiles when, officially, NATO is not supposed to be intervening? No problem: “[W]e will call upon private military corporations (PMC) and DynCorp (a subsidiary of Amentum), among others. … We did this in Iraq and in Afghanistan, why not in Ukraine?” states a high NATO official. (Ibid., December 15)
Just like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the war in Ukraine is an imperialist war. It only serves the interests of the capitalists of the great powers and those of the mafia oligarchs in Moscow. There is no justification possible for the leaders of the “left” parties and workers’ organizations to support the war-mongering governments.
As workers, activists and youth in 25 countries affirmed at the International Days Against War and Exploitation on December 9, 10 and 11: “Cease fire immediately and unconditionally!; Russian troops out of Ukraine, NATO troops out of Europe!; Not a penny, not a weapon for this unjust war!; No support for war-mongering governments! — J.A.
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December 9-11: International Days of Action Against War and Exploitation
NO TO WAR! – Actions around the world
On December 9, 10 and 11, in more than 20 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe, rallies, demonstrations, picket lines, public meetings and press conferences took place in response to the call of the World Conference Against War and Exploitation, For A Workers’ International, held in the Paris region on October 29 and 30. [See T.O. Newsletter No. 78 for report on the December 10 online forum organized by U.S. and Mexican supporters of the International Workers Committee (IWC).]
The delegates from 32 countries gathered at that conference had called for international days of mobilization under the slogans:
• “Immediate and unconditional cease-fire!
• Withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine, withdrawal of NATO troops from Europe!
• Foreign troops out of the countries they occupy!
• Not a penny, not a weapon for this unjust war!
• Billions for wage, schools, hospitals, not for war!
• No support for war-mongering governments!”
Antiwar Day of Action in the Philippines organized by Labor Party
These slogans, translated into all languages, resounded throughout the world, including in countries where activists, braving war and repression, wanted to be part of these rallies.
And this while, especially in the big imperialist countries, the leaders of the big workers’ organizations and of the main “left” parties persist in supporting the war-mongering governments.
Do they not hear statements like that of NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg threatening on Norwegian television on December 9 “that the war in Ukraine is getting out of hand and will turn into a major war between NATO and Russia”?
The workers, the labor activists of all tendencies, and the youth who gathered on December 9, 10 and 11, indicate to the international working class that there is another way: that of the unity of the workers of the whole world against the war-mongering capitalist governments, under the flag of the fight for a Workers’ International. — D.F.
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“Which Side Are You On?”
Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) members show support for rail workers at NYC rally.
By Sandy Eaton, Labor Fightback Network
December 2 — The basic contradiction within the House of Labor was starkly revealed when U.S. President Joe Biden visited Boston’s diverse working-class section of Dorchester, home base of U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, former building trades leader and Boston politician.
An estimated 200 workers and pro-labor demonstrators greeted Biden’s afternoon visit to the John F. Kennedy Library to meet the UK’s Prince of Wales. They sported signs calling on Biden to “Support Railroad Workers” and declaring “Striking Is a Human Right.”
Earlier that day, Biden was warmly embraced by labor officials at the IBEW 103 union hall and training center. The occasion was a phone-banking session for U.S. Senator Warnock’s re-election in Georgia.
Politico reported that a “grinning Biden was met with a standing ovation and a ‘we love you, Joe.’ … Lou Antonellis, the Local 103 business manager, told reporters that ‘the president has already established himself as the most pro-labor, pro-worker president in the history of the United States.’ He declined to answer questions about the president’s handling of the rail strike.”
The Boston Globe interviewed Kennedy Library protesters and reported: “Nick Wurst, a freight train conductor with CSX and a member of Rail Workers United who works out of Framingham, said it is ‘unacceptable’ that politicians ‘who have unlimited sick time’ can make this decision on behalf of rail workers ‘who are exhausted, who are on call 24/7 365, who move goods all across the country and who have been through – pardon my French – who have been through hell in the last three years.”
Paul Garver, a member of Democratic Socialists of America, is quoted as saying that Biden was overriding unfairly the demands of the workers by signing the measure. “The railway workers deserve scheduling relief and paid sick leave, and that’s the will of the people, and to simply impose it without that is to just give into the lobbying of the railroad industry,” he said.
Railroad Workers United, the rank-and-file caucus uniting workers across the range of unions involved, issued a press release today.
“This one-two punch from the two political parties is despicable,” according to RWU General Secretary Jason Doering. “Politicians are happy to voice platitudes and heap praise upon us for our heroism throughout the pandemic, the essential nature of our work, the difficult and dangerous and demanding conditions of our jobs. Yet when the steel hits the rail, they back the powerful and wealthy Class One rail carriers every time.”
Class struggle unionism versus class collaboration. Which side are you on?
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LCIP Forum: Learning from Past Mistakes
Excerpts from Closing Remarks by Millie Phillips at LCIP December 11 Forum
Wow, what a great discussion. I’m so glad you all were part of it, and if you are not already, I hope you will endorse, join, and get involved in LCIP.
Independent politics has been my passion for almost 50 years and, as time has gone by, I’m even more convinced that the only way we can make transformational change is to have a party of, by, and for the working class. During the 1990s, I was a vice-chair for the Bay Area chapter of the now defunct Labor Party and am a founding member of LCIP. Back then I was a very active and dissident member of the IBEW and recently, I went back to work in a job represented by CWA 9415.
LCIP welcomes anyone who is serious about building local organizing committees, to create a viable alternative to the major parties: a labor party, by and for working people.
As the speakers have noted, the twin parties of Capital make it very hard for us to organize a party. And they have mostly co-opted the leadership of the labor movement and many other movements that are based on issues or identities. If we are going to succeed, we need to learn from the mistakes of past efforts.
We’ve learned we can’t build from the top-down, it must be bottom-up. We’ve learned that we can’t start with national campaigns or in most cases, even state level, but locally.
We’ve learned we need to build the structure with community activists and labor together, not separately. We’ve learned we need to have a movement to develop viable candidates out of the ranks of labor and community organizing and to hold them accountable if they are elected.
We know that labor is the only institution that organizes people based on class, rather than on identity or belief, and thus is essential to bringing us together to act in our mutual class interest, and we’ve learned that the movement for a labor party must, from its very start, have diverse leadership, especially from marginalized communities, or the issues facing the most oppressed will still be ignored. LCIP attempts to address all of this.
Let’s do it!
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California Tenants Fight Back
By Millie Phillips
Shelter is a basic human need. In a society planned to benefit the vast majority, housing would be a right, since it is such a basic need. The housing crisis facing U.S. workers today is a great example of capitalism in action; a system designed to benefit only the rich and greedy.
California has a reputation as a progressive state when compared to most others in the U.S. Its governing bodies are dominated by Democratic Party politicians who often claim to care about living conditions. It also has the fifth largest economy in the world and is home to 39 million people. Yet, California is facing an extreme housing cost crisis, in most cases worse than the rest of the country, though residents still have a fairly low risk of eviction (4% at immediate risk) than many more conservative states with fewer protective laws, which have risk rates reaching as much as 20%.
Since 2005, over 2.5 million low-income residents have left the state in search of housing they could afford. Despite births and newly arrived residents, last year, the state’s population slightly declined. 44% of California households pay rent, disproportionately people of color (only 34% of white households rent). Even before the Covid pandemic, half of these households were rent-burdened, that is paying more than 30% of their income on rent. While some eviction protections and financial support were provided to renters by both the state and the federal government a year or so into the pandemic, these protections have now expired, even though the pandemic and its effects on the economy have not ended.
Many did not receive the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) benefits they applied for due to a bureaucratic backlog in processing claims and are now facing eviction for back rent that they assumed would have been at least partially covered. Especially with recent high inflation, wages cannot keep up with drastic rent increases. The state now has a shortage of over a million so-called affordable housing units (defined as not rent-burdened).
California law caps annual rent increases on existing tenants at 10%, but this is poorly enforced. Average rents rose 15% in 2021, with many increases far higher. The current average is $1725/month, and much higher in urban settings such as the San Francisco Bay Area. In San Francisco, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $3500, with several Bay Area communities even higher, making even well-paid professionals rent-burdened.
However, such high rents existed before the pandemic and have not increased much. With the average cost to purchase a home over $1 million in the Bay Area, almost no workers can afford to buy, and many lower-income residents had already been pushed out to suburbs (or further) in a gentrification process that has been going on for decades, leaving few but those who live in rent-controlled apartments.
While California cities can enact limited rent control, the state’s Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act exempts all properties built after 1995 and allows landlords to raise the rent to anything they want once they acquire a new tenant. Landlords are allowed to evict tenants not just for cause, but to remodel their properties or to occupy them as their own residences, even if such actions are short-term and they quickly put the units back on the market. Certain low-income housing units, for which the owners receive tax credits for providing, are even exempt from the 10% state cap. These laws give landlords a huge incentive to evict tenants. In one eviction case observed by this author, remodeling consisted merely of cleaning and repainting, which could have been done very easily without kicking out the tenant.
With the housing market so tight, landlords will use any excuse to get rid of tenants, so they can rent out the property at a much higher rate. This includes extreme harassment designed to get tenants to move out voluntarily, such as failing to make repairs required under rental agreements or by law and retaliating against tenants who demand them. Habitability issues are often extreme: plumbing and electricity failures not repaired, rat and cockroach infestations, black mold and toxic materials leading to ongoing health problems, etc.
Harassment may include illegal actions: violence, threats of violence, destruction of property, overt racial discrimination such as yelling racial slurs, and entering units without notice, sometimes stealing money and other property belonging to tenants. Threatening undocumented people with calling ICE is common. Removing access to benefits like parking, making constant phone calls and text messages, and verbally abusing children are often reported. In one case known to this author, a disabled child was repeatedly called racial slurs and terms derogatory to disabled people. In another, a landlord intimidated and threatened older children home alone, causing significant psychological trauma. Elder tenants lacking technical skills or suffering from dementia and other disabilities are often scammed into evictions.
In most cases, these abuses are perpetrated by property managers hired by corporate owners, often hiding behind shell companies and even shady non-profit housing developers in the case of designated low-income housing.
On top of this, most tenants, already struggling to pay their bills, cannot afford legal representation. Given the complexity of housing law and eviction defense, even formally well-educated tenants rarely know their rights or how to respond to an eviction notice. Once served with such a notice, they show up for their court hearings unprepared with no idea what they should bring or how to make a legal defense. A recent project in suburban Contra Costa County found that 85% of tenants in “unlawful detainer” (eviction) cases do not have attorneys in court, while an equal percentage of landlords do have attorneys.
Being evicted makes it very hard to rent again. Evicted people often end up homeless living in their cars or on the street. The fear of being unhoused encourages tenants to leave voluntarily, so they will have a chance to move somewhere cheaper and be able to rent again. The current known homeless population in California is approx. 178,000, increasing by a third in the last year. Since the official number includes only those counted by teams of observers, it is believed to be much higher. Housing costs are believed to be the main cause of the increase.
Efforts to repeal Costa Hawkins continue to fail. The most recent attempt was in 2018; with many arguing that freeing up cities to enact widespread rent control would result in landlords taking units off the rental market, ultimately raising costs even more. A recent state law, AB 1482, provided the 10% rent cap and does provide some “just cause eviction” protections for longer-term tenants.
Given the difficulty of passing laws at the state level and the lack of state enforcement of existing laws protecting renters, the more popular current strategy is to pass local ordinances. Throughout California, tenants are organizing in tenant unions and local coalitions, many affiliated with statewide and even national organizations, to pass rent control, “just cause” eviction, and anti-harassment laws, via ballot resolutions or direct campaigns to city councils. Many also advocate for more affordable housing development, but resistance to building new housing is high and, at best, it takes many years to get projects approved and built. Local ordinances provide immediate benefits.
In addition to many existing ordinances passed earlier, greater tenant protections* (new or improved rent control, anti-harassment, or just cause eviction laws) have been passed in Antioch, Bell Gardens, Concord, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oxnard, Richmond, San Francisco, and Santa Ana in the last year. Also, new measures on the November 8th ballot adding or expanding tenant protections* were just passed in Los Angeles, Oakland, Pasadena, and Richmond and ongoing campaigns exist in many other California cities and towns. More than 50 local ballot measures that addressed housing needs were decided, with most passing. Those intended to reduce homelessness were very popular. Additionally, activists are starting to pressure cities and counties to commit funds for tenant legal services.
A Socialist Perspective
Socialist Organizer supports such local reform efforts, respecting the hard work and courage of vulnerable tenants fighting to enact them.
But we are appalled that there are no national or state laws that provide comprehensive coverage of tenant rights and protections, nor for providing public housing and affordable housing development that could override corporate and wealthier resident opposition (often based in white supremacist ideology and a general contempt and fear of lower-income people). Given the Democratic majority in California at the state level and in most larger cities and many suburban towns, this is particularly galling, revealing the true character of the Democratic Party, a party just as controlled by corporate money as the Republican Party.
Until the multiracial U.S. working class develops a political party powerful enough to threaten the twin parties of the ruling class, we will be limited to such piecemeal reform for all issues facing workers and marginalized peoples, not just housing. Now more than ever, we need to start building such a party to challenge the hegemony of the capitalist system.
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(*Measures identified via online searches – there may have been others not known to this author, who was a participant in the Antioch and Concord campaigns.)
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BRITAIN: Government Calls in the Army Against the Strikers
By Jean-Pierre Barrois
On December 15, more than 100,000 nurses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland went on strike – the first in 106 years – with their union, the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). In the following days, ambulance drivers, railway workers and customs officers also went on strike for higher wages.
The nurses imposed a strike call on their union leadership. They refuse to accept any loss of wages in the face of inflation of more than 10%. They demand the abrogation of the 47,000 jobs cut by all successive governments, whether Labour, Liberal or Conservative.
The strike was also imposed against the will of the leadership of the central trade union federation, the Trade Union Congress (TUC), which rejects any call for a general strike, and against the leadership of the Labour Party, which has been relentless for weeks in denouncing any strike and which has just declared that the nurses’ wage demand is “unreasonable.”
This stance allows the Conservative government to have the audacity to threaten to send the army to replace ambulance drivers and customs officers if they go on strike. COBRA, the intergovernmental body that coordinates all security services, has just given the green light to the use of armed forces against strikers. They would be deployed in hospitals, ports and airports to try to break the strike.
“We are a few hours away from a decisive turning point in the social war that the government is waging, with the support of Starmer [the leader of the Labour Party], to make the workers pay for the cost of the war in Ukraine*,” explains a trade union official. “What are you waiting for, TUC leaders? It’s high time to call a general strike against wage cuts, in defense of the unions and the right to strike. Hands off our unions!
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* The British government is the second largest supplier of arms to Ukraine among NATO countries, after the United States.
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Britain: For the First Time in 100 years, Nurses on Strike
Elizabeth is a nurse in one of the biggest hospitals of London. The Royal College of Nurses, the nurses’ union of which she is a member, has just announced that for the first time in 100 years nurses will be on strike beginning December 15. At the same time, ambulance drivers, paramedics, railway workers, letter carriers, firefighters and teachers are on strike or preparing to strike, to the point that the Conservative government has decided to “call in the army.” The following interview was conducted by Jean-Pierre Barrois on December 8.
Question: What are your demands?
Elizabeth: First of all, there are the wages. Our incomes have been falling for 10 years. The last government offer does not even come close to covering inflation, which is now in double digits. What we are being offered is a pay cut. Then there are the vacant positions because they have not been filled or have been closed.
In all, there are 47,000 nursing positions missing in the health care system, the NHS. That’s huge. We are exhausted and at the end of our rope, really. For example, we regularly work unpaid overtime and fill in for our absent colleagues by working 12-hour shifts. Patient safety is at stake.
The government has called on the public to applaud us for taking risks during the epidemic. It’s not applause that pays our bills. We want to be paid more so that we can give our best to our patients.
Question: The government has just announced that it plans to call in the army to replace the strikers. …
Elizabeth: This is a serious threat. If the military were to take the place of health care professionals to provide “essential services” this would be very dangerous for our patients. It could put their lives at risk.
Question: The leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer, has just spoken out against all the strikes. What is your reaction?
Elizabeth: I am from South Africa. I am not a member of the Labour Party. All I can say is that a political leader who claims to represent the interests of workers and then refuses to support workers when they are legitimately on strike to defend their standard of living does not deserve to be called a labor leader.