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Letters of November 8

An Interview with a Carwash Workers Organizer in NYC

What’s happening with the carwash workers?
I’m keeping workers united to fight off the bosses’ bribes and lies to decertify the union. By NLRB [National Labor Relations Board] pro-boss rules the boss has 90 days before the contract expires to get 30 percent of the workers to agree to decertify.

 What are the workers demands now?
The workers who do specialized cleaning want an enclosed space where they can work inside to avoid extreme weather conditions in summer and winter. Also the bosses force workers to use dangerous chemicals without proper protection as “required” by the Dept. of Health. Workers want holiday pay and regular scheduled hours.

 How big is the carwash?
There are 46 workers working 2-12 hour shifts at a grueling pace. They are mainly Latin, undocumented workers. And of course, the bosses are profit driven racist exploiters. The contract is weak in a number of areas. Self-critically we organizers need to work better to train the rank and file to defend the contract and fight for their health and safety.
How much change or reform is possible under capitalism for the carwash workers?
Under this system I don’t think there will be significant change in the carwash industry. The size and nature of the workforce and the separation into small shops limit the workers’ capacity to fight back. But given these limits workers have fought back against inhuman conditions and to organize the union over many weeks in outside weather, as long as five months. The workers have been united and courageous, giving leadership to the whole working class. Critically the union leaders have not organized powerful support, but rank and file workers from different industries have been 100 percent supportive.
In the future the working class must overthrow capitalism and take power. Do you agree?
Yes, because that is the only way that we can ensure that brutal capitalist exploitation will end. Without a doubt I think workers would be open to revolutionary communist ideas. It’s our job to begin these discussions with them, using CHALLENGE newspaper, which can be read out loud depending on the workers’ literacy levels.


University of Maine Students March against Racism

Washington, D.C. October 1—Students from the University of Maine (UMO) drove to Washington, D.C. to join the national March for Black Women for racial justice. Students from Howard University’s HUResist also attended. The March for Black Women merged with the March for Racial Justice, protesting state violence, police terror and racist murders, at the U.S. Department of (In)Justice. The march ended on the National Mall, condemning institutional racism.
Anti-racist fighters launched the March for Racial Justice after the acquittal of the Minnesota cop who murdered Philando Castile. Their goal is a national mobilization against racist police terror. The March for Racial Justice was a nationwide protest in 18 cities, from Los Angeles to New York City, from Olympia, Washington to Dallas, Texas and Tallahassee, Florida.
The March for Black Women focused on denouncing “the propagation of state-violence and the widespread incarceration of Black women and girls, rape and all sexualized violence, the murders and brutalization of transwomen and the disappearances of our girls from our streets, our schools and our homes.” Organizers of this “march within a march” believed that it was vital to highlight the centrality of Black women in the oppression of racism and in the leadership of the resistance to it.
A supporter of the PLP who organized the UMO student contingent shared the following account of the day:
During the early part of the day, beautiful people of different identifications (class, sex, race, age, students, workers) stood together to listen and learn from women speakers who covered topics such as racism, sexual and domestic violence, hurricane relief, white supremacy, systemic racism, patriarchal constructs, transphobia, homophobia, and xenophobia.
We hit the streets, it was powerful, like every time I set foot on the streets of DC in solidarity with brothers and sisters who are tired of oppression. It was amazing to see the freshmen women of my group from UMO, wide-eyed and amazed because it was their first protest. It was great to be able to show them what direct action looks like. Taking the streets and disrupting traffic is powerful because it raises awareness. Will it change things in a day? No. But it may spark fire in the heart of many people to give their time and energy to this revolution.
I was moved to tears when everyone took a knee and then people started yelling, “Black women stand up!” I am moved to tears now writing it. The struggle of Black and Brown women is so real and so much of a burden to carry.
Personally, I made it a point to incorporate anti-capitalist chants. At one point I climbed a marble wall and chanted through my loudspeaker, “Hey hey, ho ho, capitalism has got to go!”
 As I chanted I got louder, more passionate and a lot of people were pumped. People were either wondering what capitalism had to do with this march or they were “real woke” and knew exactly why I was so furiously yelling with my fist in the air. I saw people jumping up and down with me chanting against capitalism. I believe in the good things coming. I believe people are getting ready and are ready for change, real change, the change that will free future generations.
Her account of the day shows the importance of collective action against racism, but also demonstrates the limitations of the current leadership of these movements. The speakers in the morning condemned many of the ills of capitalism, but failed to call out the capitalist system, the wellhead of all of these forms of oppression. Capitalism’s insatiable lust for profits above all and at all costs spawns myriad oppressions to divide sections of the working class against others, both to extract maximum profits and weaken our ability to fight back.
Fortunately, this comrade took it upon herself to make this connection herself with her own “rally within the rally”, heightening the consciousness of hundreds of participants in the march, and showing the way forward to her fellow UMO students to liberation through communist revolution.


Walking through Mexico City after Earthquake
In one of the hardest hit neighborhoods around Roma and Condessa, Mexico City, several buildings collapsed during the earthquake and many more were damaged to the point of being uninhabitable.
Many deaths were the result of people trapped in buildings. Walking around the neighborhood a couple of days after the quake was both traumatic and inspiring. Many streets were blocked and yellow tape blocked off buildings at risk of collapse.
Two parks in the neighborhood were being used as makeshift refugee centers for people left homeless.
The city bureaucracy was overwhelmed by the disaster, but the neighborhood was full of young volunteers. Donated water, supplies and informal meals were being passed out everywhere you looked. Many neighborhood restaurants were giving free food to volunteers and refugees. Calls would go out, literally shouted in the street, for carpenters or other skills. From time to time, self-organized brigades of volunteers would run from one area to another as news of a new building collapse would spread.
Even in this, the hardest hit area, only a few square blocks, there was also “regular” life trying to go on as people who were able to returned to work and businesses reopened amid the streets teeming with machine gun armed soldiers. Many restaurants were filled with people and in the vast majority of the city there was little or no visible damage. Get out of the neighborhood and you could almost forget there was an earthquake.
Among the collapsed buildings were several new ones, including the school in another neighborhood where 20 children were killed, built after the codes were changed to require them to be earthquake resistant. But business came before people’s lives and bribes and willful ignorance let the codes get ignored in many cases.
Not shamed by their collusion with the criminal developers, the ruling class is trying to undue some of the positive collective response by building patriotism among the young volunteers. Mexican flags are appearing across the neighborhood even as the victims are still being removed and people without the money to properly repair their buildings have to decide whether to take the loss or risk living in a weakened apartment building. Flags will not hold those buildings up when the next quake comes.
The city is promising money to properly fix up buildings, but it seems impossible to believe that the distribution of the funds will be better than the corruption filled system that was “ensuring” new buildings were safe to begin with.
Call For Action After Capitalist-Caused Disasters
The otherwise excellent editorial on the devastation of Puerto Rico by racism and imperialism left out one important point. It is necessary for communists and other class-conscious workers to be involved in the struggles to survive disasters like the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. We must lead the class struggles that will develop as local and national bosses try to profit off of the reconstruction and gentrification that almost always follow these disasters.
Progressive Labor Party organized in Texas and New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In Texas, we were part of the relief efforts for our brothers and sisters that were forced to relocate from New Orleans. In New Orleans itself, we organized a months-long project the summer after Katrina. Scores of Party members and friends participated in the process of clearing debris and rebuilding in working class areas like the Lower Ninth Ward, while exposing the limits of reform and the need for revolution. PLP has done similar things in Pakistan and Haiti.
On my job, I proposed to my co-workers that we raise money for relief efforts for Puerto Rico. We are setting up a small committee. I have also called for a demonstration condemning the racist failure of Trump and U.S. bosses to provide for the needs of workers there. These kinds of activities give us opportunities to raise communist ideas and build international solidarity with workers worldwide.
Trump’s Sick, Racist Move
President Donald Trump used the term “sons of bitches” to describe the mostly Black NFL player’s protest against Black oppression. The move is designed to whip up nationalism and racism against Black people in the United States. It is a sick move by a sick leader of a sick system.

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