This is the speech Juan Rey gave on May 20 at a campaign meeting in North Hollywood.
Rey works as a train mechanic for L.A. Metro and also serves as a union steward. He is running as an independent candidate in the June 5th primary for U.S. Congress in the northeast San Fernando Valley.
We started our campaign to vote for a worker for Congress by asking District 29 residents to sign a petition to allow my name to get on the ballot. We successfully turned in 4,082 signatures and 2,387 signatures were verified as registered voters by the Los Angeles County Registrar's Office. This meant we did not have to pay the filing fee, not one dollar.
During the petitioning and now the campaign, many people jumped at the idea of a working class party. They said what a great idea for the workers to have their own independent party. They immediately signed their name to the petition. And many of them agreed that elections are not enough for the working class, that in order for us to gain any benefits in this society we are going to have fight together.
To see what it means when working people organize, we can already look to the teachers in West Virginia who organized themselves and all the school staff throughout the state. They also organized with the parents to run day care centers for their children while they went on strike. They took to the streets demanding better pay and funding of their pensions and schools.
This strike spread to other states, where teachers have won partial victories. And they did this often without recognized union bargaining rights. They did this in states where strikes are against the law, and where the governments are dominated by Republicans, who openly swear to be the enemies of labor. This shows that it is possible to fight, and that workers don't need anyone's permission to fight. And when workers do fight, it opens up possibilities.
Of course, teachers by themselves, are not able to resolve the problems they face. No group of working people can do this alone. The workers and their families need to join the fight with the teachers and add their own demands. That is, the fights have to spread and become bigger. It is the only way that we have a chance to bring even a small part of the wealth we produce to meet our needs.
In addition to the teachers’ strikes, we can also look to a lot of other fights that people have made against the violence of this society. Ever since the murders of Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Ferguson, there have been mobilizations against police violence and the murder of black people by the police. The criminalizing of productive workers gave birth to the immigrants' rights movement. But now these workers and their families are bargaining chips for politicians. The movement by high school students against gun violence continues, while gun makers continue to push any kind of weapon it can sell. The Me-Too movement against the abuse of women has been long in the making and has just begun its fight.
The fights against the poisoning of working class communities by polluters, like Exide Battery, still continue.
The two big parties try to control and capitalize on these movements for electoral purposes. Instead, these movements can be brought together under a working class banner in order to make the struggle much more powerful for the benefit of all workers.
Along with these fights, workers need to also come together and stand against the wars that the United States government continue to engage in for the interest of big corporations. The human and social cost is unbearable. This is certainly true in those countries. But in this country we can also tie part of the homelessness to war veterans going back to the Vietnam war. The workers pay with joblessness and cuts to social programs that workers benefit from.
The need for the working class to build its own party is ever more necessary.
I think workers do the most important things in the real economy. Yet workers know that life is getting more difficult. We produce all the wealth and basically run society. What is the whole point of working? Why produce so much profit to only give it to a few?
Why not work so that the wealth we create goes to improve our neighborhoods, schools, create more parks, bring culture to all the schools and neighborhoods?
And why do we have to kill ourselves working huge amounts of overtime just to pay our bills, while other workers struggle to find work, have to work little jobs here and there, or have to work under the table because there are no jobs out there?
In fact, the list is endless of all the things that we need, that allow people to have a decent life, such as decent, affordable housing. Why is that so hard? What are we short of? Nothing. And there are plenty of people who could be doing the work too.
The technology and wealth is here. We know because we produce it. But in order to get those things we are going to have to fight for it. And in making that fight, we can also build our own party, a working class party, with our own demands.
Democrats and Republicans monopolize the elections. No matter who wins all workers lose. From farm labor to doctors, from cooks to engineers, from transportation workers to factory workers from scientists to health care workers. All workers lose.
This campaign's message is that all workers have to politically stick together. We have to fight together. Our collective strength comes from the work we do. We could run society. Today, at the workplace we produce value, but the capitalist class profits from it. Tomorrow, we could use our strength to put the wealth we produce for the benefit of everyone.
The one percent will not give up a nickel much less a dime.
Let's send a message to all workers that we are ready to organize a Working Class Party.
Let's prepare for the big showdown between workers and the bosses so that workers can get what we rightfully deserve.