Because of SDUSA member and endorsee Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman’s unwavering focus on the needs in her district during her first two-year term as Legislator, Monroe County’s Democratic Committee had designated Carolyn’s opponent to be the 2023 nominee — but on Tuesday, June 27, the Democratic Primary voters of District 25 decided otherwise! Not only does Carolyn carry a wealth of labor endorsements: even more importantly, her constituents know and trust her. They know she’s in there for nobody else but them.
In a Democrat and Chronicle article titled “Monroe County Legislature primaries could significantly reshape its future,” Carolyn solidly stated her ardently-lived priorities: “I am passionate about organized labor and tenant unions and believe it’s time for a global labor movement to usher in the peace and abundance of which humanity is more than capable.”
We social democrats know that the main thing hindering Americans’ full realization of this peace and abundance — besides our willingness to be duped by the powerful into seeing those who are most like us as foes — is the cynicism that persuades many of us that there’s no point in voting — or, if we are determined to vote, that it’s only the establishment-backed candidates who can build coalitions and get things done.
Not so far from Rochester, over in Buffalo, SDUSA endorsees Eve Shippens and 2021 Mayoral candidate India Walton both lost their Democratic Primary races for seats on Buffalo’s Common Council. Their visions are aligned with Carolyn’s in prioritizing justice for the poor, and especially those in populations at greatest risk of poverty. As we learned during the deadly Buffalo Blizzard of 2022, these most disenfranchised constituents have been largely disregarded by current leadership. https://socialistcurrents.org/?p=4084
Comrade and SDUSA Vice Chair Michael Mottern has been reaching out unflaggingly with our social democratic message in the Buffalo area and beyond. He campaigned hard for Eve this time, and for India during her run for Mayor, and he was actually the one who introduced us to Carolyn in 2021! He’s not quitting, and we we’re not quitting, despite the low voter turnout and high spending by real estate interests that contributed to the defeat of the progressive slate. We’re thrilled to have Rochester and Carolyn’s work there to hold up as a concrete example to the poor in Buffalo (and people everywhere) of what can happen when we believe in democracy enough to vote, support and campaign for leaders of the people who are, indeed, of the people and ready to represent!
Susan Stevens is the Chair of Kansas City, Kansas SDUSA.
In Ozzy Osbourne’s song “Crazy Train,” writers John (Ozzy) Osbourne, Randy Rhoads and Robert Daisley allude to “millions of people living as foes” — and knowingly or unknowingly name the root cause of the gaping disconnect between the America that the majority of voters want and the America we have. We all want good jobs, nutritious food, clean air and water, comfortable homes, safe neighborhoods, safe and reliable transportation, a fair justice system, freedom from unmanageable debt, access to good educations and good healthcare, and personal and religious freedom.
How is it, then, that every industry impacting our lives is controlled by wealthy shareholders intent on raking in exorbitant short-term profits — profits they carry off to invest in other lucrative ventures, and scarcely invest back into increasing the quality and raising the safety standards of the businesses producing the goods and services that we depend on to feed and care for ourselves and our families and go about our daily lives? What will it take for us to realize that we share more needs, problems and interests in common with each other than differences? Must we go off the rails on this crazy train set in motion by these shareholders at their last stop on their way to the bank?
In an interview between 2024 Democratic Presidential candidate Marianne Williamson and Maximillian Alvarez, Editor-in-Chief of The Real News and founder of Working People Podcast, I learned that right after the February 3, 2023 freight train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Norfolk Southern executives were on the phone telling stockholders not to worry, and reassuring them that it was all covered by a billion-dollar insurance policy. Those stockholders could rest easy as people within a one-mile radius were evacuated from their homes — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2023_Ohio_train_derailment — and as the train’s cargo of hazardous materials was ignited and released into the air, and chemicals from the train also spilled into soil and water, killing an estimated 43,222 animals https://ohiodnr.gov/discover-and-learn/safety-conservation/about-ODNR/news/Train-Derailment
I also learned from this interview between Williamson and Alvarez about Norfolk Southern’s policy of cutting the operations ratio and staff costs to maximize stockholder profits through practices like running longer and longer trains — even trains nearly two miles long that workers say shouldn’t be on the tracks — with antiquated Civil War Era brakes that stop one car at a time, allowing cars at the back of an extremely long train to keep building momentum and increasing the risk of jack-knifing, rather than investing in modern braking systems which stop all the cars at once, and also practices like tasking fewer people with inspecting cars and allowing them less time to get it done. https://youtu.be/D4Z9dfu4FuA
In an interview between Marianne Williamson and Railroad Workers United co-founder Matt Weaver, I learned that the same corporate establishment that recently compelled pro-union President Joe Biden to force rail workers to accept a labor contract that was unacceptable to the majority of unionized rail workers, also did not care to learn from the workers on the ground, who know what it takes to operate trains safely. Weaver said, “There’s been an absurd business model of precision-scheduled railroading, which focuses — you know, direct focus — on profit margins and the shareholders, and it’s led to, in the last 10 years, a cut of 30% of rail labor, so we don’t have the manpower to work on infrastructure, inspect the cars, things like that — and what happened in East Palestine was a wheel bearing failure from what the NTSB tells us, and perhaps longer times or more men from the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen to inspect those cars would have led to them discovering this failure.” Weaver later added, “The NTSB said it was 100% preventable.” https://youtu.be/8mrQjHZvy7o
In her testimony to the Senate about the February 3 Norfolk Southern derailment, East Palestine resident and member of Moms Clean Air Force Misti Allison says, “We now know that train carried multiple toxic petrochemicals. When authorities conducted a ‘controlled burn,’ it was like a bomb went off — a bomb containing vinyl chloride, which releases dangerous chemicals. When burned, these chemicals never go away — chemicals such as dioxins, which are not safe at any level, and cause damage that may not show up for years. Two days later, our government told us it was safe to come home — but is it safe?”
“People and animals in my community are sick. The EPA tells us the data is fine, while independent researchers tell us there are high levels of carcinogens all around us. Who do we trust? And then there’s our mental health. The anxiety is real. My seven-year-old has asked me if he is going to die from staying in his own home. What do I tell him?”
As Norfolk Southern stockholders rest assured that their billions in profits are safe, Allison goes on to detail her town’s new economic landscape: “This preventable accident has put a scarlet letter on our town. Businesses are struggling. Property values are plummeting. Even if we wanted to leave, we couldn’t. Who would buy our homes?” She details the risk-landscape for the predominantly poor and working class communities where the railroads operate all over this country: “There were over a thousand train derailments last year, and the expansion of the petrochemical industry means that more trains carrying toxic chemicals will put more families at risk.”https://youtu.be/7c9RDAiN7u0
America’s once-famous customer service culture was the product of what seemed to be a more people-friendly capitalism that respected the customer’s right to do business with those companies providing the best product or service at the best price, accompanied by the best customer experience. While businesses have always had the goal of making money, there was previously no way to separate profits from satisfied customers and good standing in the community where one did business.
With the emergence of large corporations, and continual mergers in which there are fewer different businesses offering needed services, and fewer locally-owned businesses, it’s now increasingly possible for stockholders to reap tremendous profits with no need to concern themselves about what customers want. As Maximillian Alvarez pointed out in his above mentioned interview on East Palestine with Williamson, rail companies have, over time, kept merging till what we now have is “an oligopoly of a few companies that don’t compete with each other.”
In an article by Alvarez published in The Real News on April 26 — titled “US freight workers say it’s time to nationalize the railroads” — featuring a discussion between Alvarez, journalist and professor Kari Lyderson, and former Railroad Workers United General Secretary Ron Kaminow, I learned from Lyderson that the rail companies’ rising profits have been accompanied by a scaling back of service and a reduction of staff, and rising dissatisfaction on the part of both workers and customers, with customers being the shippers, and ultimately, the end customers waiting on the goods. https://therealnews.com/us-freight-workers-say-its-time-to-nationalize-the-railroads
We the American people are increasingly struggling to obtain our necessary resources within the amoral shell of a capitalism that has been sucked dry of the one (maybe at least partially) redeeming former capitalist value — the competition for customer loyalty. Now the only esteemed customer “who’s always right” is the wealthy shareholder, who’s far removed from the ordinary concerns of ordinary people.
In my own poor and working-class community of Kansas City, Kansas, some of us are still wondering about possible long-term effects on air quality due to a fire that broke out at a local recycling plant — Advantage Metals — on May 19. Beto Lugo Martinez, co-executive director of local environmental justice organization CleanAirNow told reporters that it was his team that notified the EPA of the fire — not our local government agencies. KCUR reports: ‘He sees the lack of preparedness, and the overabundance of industrial plants in Kansas City, Kansas, as an example of environmental racism that puts its residents in Wyandotte County — who are typically more diverse and working-class — at risk of disasters like the fire.‘
As social democrats, it’s up to us to campaign for candidates who amplify the voices of workers on the ground in every industry, and push for policies that empower the communities most impacted by industrial operations. We the 99% must stop living as foes: it’s the only way to get this train carrying the precious cargo of our lives and our children’s lives re-set onto a sustainable track.
Susan Stevens is the Chair of the Kansas City, Kansas branch of SDUSA.
The National Executive Committee of Social Democrats USA released the following statement on June 13:
As an organization committed to Palestinian human rights and appalled by the Israeli government’s shameful disregard of same, we wholeheartedly endorse New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani’s and State Senator Jabari Brisport’s sponsorship of the “Not On Our Dime” Act, which will stop charities registered in New York State from sending money in tax-deductible donations to West Bank settlements. Hundreds of Israeli residents of these settlements recently rampaged through towns in the West Bank, setting them ablaze, burning homes, cars and ambulances to the ground, with the backing of the Israeli government. Many of these settlers are funded by organizations in New York State.
The bill (A6943/S6992), clarifies that funding Israeli settlement activity and any violations of the international treaties signed at Geneva on August 12, 1949 by NYS charities are illegal. As such, it prohibits NY-based non-profit corporations from abusing their non-profit status to reinforce and further Israel’s illegal and inhumane settlement expansion.
The legislation also bolsters enforcement of violations of these prohibitions: it allows the Attorney General to fine those organizations that knowingly fund settlements a sum no less than 1 million dollars, and explicitly empowers Palestinians who have been harmed by the settler violence funded by these New York-based charities to seek a civil action against them.
Overall, this legislation makes clear that New Yorkers do not support violations of international law. By explicitly naming Israeli settlements, and the war crimes that they entail, this legislation signals New Yorkers’ values, and directs enforcement priorities. This would be a first under New York law.
I met Maddie Diane McCrory and her wife Ophelia last summer at a fundraiser that I’d put together for Maddie and her two fellow labor organizers who had been fired, as a union-busting tactic, by one of our local Starbucks stores. I’d expected, and led these young people to believe, that it would be a huge event, one likely to provide substantial economic support for them. They were scrambling to pay their rents, buy gas and feed themselves whilst simultaneously feeding, growing and birthing their contribution to the great American workers’ movement of our time. Meanwhile, their opponents sat back, dug into their seemingly bottomless resources, and waited for these tender-hearted and creative young people to become so worn down that they would give up on their vision for a better world — a vision that Starbucks had initially capitalized on, to appeal to their primarily progressive clientele, by calling their employees “partners,” and pledging to cover college tuition and healthcare, including gender-affirming care for trans employees.
The fundraiser ended up being attended by only a handful of people — mostly these young organizers and their friends. Yet rather than deciding I was wasting their time and trying to quickly extricate themselves, they sat down, broke bread, and entered into deep discourse about their experiences working together at a job and in an atmosphere that they loved so much. They’d become passionate about collaborating to expand Starbucks’ supposedly “woke” stance into a real awakening — a willingness to enter into an actual partnership built on respect for their workers and receptiveness to their communications about the working conditions they needed to thrive.
After my totally non-epic “fundraiser,” Maddie encouraged me with the words: “…what you did and how you did it was perfect.” Her words jolted me awake to the true mission of this generation that the Right disparagingly calls “the snowflake generation”: ushering in a world where everyone is received and affirmed as perfect. Immersed in this sense of rightness within ourselves and our relationships with others, we’re free to stop limiting our uniqueness to fit outdated standards. Held in check only by love for one another, we’re free to imagine, campaign for and create the world we want to live in.
I met Maddie and Ophelia a second time that summer at a Kansans for Constitutional Freedom canvass where we urged our Kansas City, Kansas neighbors to reject a Republican anti-abortion ballot measure. Back in 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court had ruled that abortion rights were encoded in our State Constitution. This gave us protections that were lacking in other red states upon the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe V Wade — protections our Republican-dominated House and Senate were eager to undo.
The Republicans introduced the ballot measure during a traditionally low-turnout non-presidential primary election — yet Kansans showed up in force to defeat the amendment by an 18% margin. This made last summer a blazing sunrise that illuminated the landscape of possibilities open to towns, cities, states and a nation where most rank-and-file people are registered to vote, stay informed on the issues and vote in every single election with the same diligence with which they don’t neglect to draw a breath.
That summer gave me hope that Kansans were seeing the disconnect between our Republican-controlled legislature and the wants and needs of the majority of Kansans. It was encouraging to see my US House Representative, pro-choice and pro-LGBTQIA+ Democrat Sharice Davids, win reelection in spite of the way Republicans had split apart Wyandotte County, the most diverse county in Kansas, during the redistricting process and diluted the black voices of Northern Wyandotte County by pushing them out of Davids’ district and into a predominantly white, rural district.
But that was a rare bright spot, as pro-choice and pro-LGBQIA+ US Senate Candidate Mark Holland lost to longtime Republican incumbent Jerry Moran, and our State Legislatures retained their Republican supermajorities, who then resumed their onslaught on individuals’ rights to privacy and bodily autonomy. Things are happening so quickly in the right’s escalating war on trans people that Maddie recommends periodically checking the Trans Legislation Tracker to see the current status of anti-trans laws from state to state. https://translegislation.com/
One piece of recently-passed Kansas legislation that Maddie finds quite distressing is Senate Bill 180, which bans both trans and intersex women from female-only spaces such as women’s restrooms, locker rooms, prisons, rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters. Where will non-cis women be able to turn when needing to recover from rape or get out of abusive relationships?
Also of concern is the move to ban puberty blockers — the main form of gender-affirming care provided to minors. Maddie, who didn’t come out as trans till age 20 and therefore did experience male puberty, says, “Puberty sucks for everybody, but, like, when you’re trans and you’re going through puberty, it’s especially distressing because things are happening to your body — not only that you don’t want and that are uncomfortable, but also make you feel really, really, really, really bad about yourself. And when you know that different things should be happening, it just doesn’t feel right…
“…I had a lot of internalized transphobia at the time, so I was kind of hypermasculinizing myself, so I was trying to be like super-masculine, and be like, ‘No, no, I don’t want to dress up like a girl: I’m a dude, and I’m gonna be a super-strong dude, and I’m gonna wear khakis and Aro poster shirts…’ and whatever I thought being like a man was…”
Maddie began hormonal gender-affirming care at age 25 after living as a woman for five years. Before being fired for organizing with her fellow Starbucks workers, she’d been set to move forward with Starbucks’ offer of gender-affirming surgery. Now the surgery’s been put on hold, and as to her hormonal therapy, it’s expensive without health insurance. She recently paid about $50 total to fill her prescriptions for progesterone and her testosterone blocker.
Employer-provided health insurance is a great thing when you don’t have an employer like Starbucks who will pull the rug out from under you if you don’t smile and put up with subpar conditions out of gratitude. Yet in the grander scheme of things, universal healthcare that’s not tied to one’s job would offer everyone immeasurably more security and freedom. I suspect that’s one reason why the corporate class fights so hard against releasing that chain. As social democrats, it is incumbent on us to help the working class eliminate that chain for good!
Susan Stevens is the Chair of the Kansas City, Kansas chapter of SDUSA.
Here is a provisional description of our plans for the Labor Day Weekend National Convention:
Eugene V. Debs Hall was created by SDUSA member and Buffalo NY city planner, Chris Hawley, It Is a not- for-profit social club created out of the former building that was once the whistle stop-rest area and bar for the New York Central railroad workers, whose main terminal was right up the street. Comrade Hawley named the hall after Debs, because of his background as leader of the American Railway Workers and 5- time presidential nominee of the Socialist Party. The Hall contains mementos of Debs 1912 presidential campaign, FDR and Karl Marx. The Hall can accompany over 500 people and has sleeping arrangements and air mattress for 15 people. It is located at 483 Peckham St., Buffalo N.Y. 14206.
The overall theme of the Convention will be the defense and expansion of Democracy, which is in grave danger, nationally and internationally due to the rise of the authoritarian and neo-fascist MAGA forces in the Republican Party, here in the United States; and the so-called populist authoritarian governments in Hungary, Poland, Israel, Russia, China, and a growing threat throughout Western Europe.
Day 1, Saturday September 2: The Convention will open with welcoming speeches by SDUSA’s National Chair Patty Friend, and National Secretary David Hacker. We have invited to address the Convention, via Zoom, representatives of a speaker tour of prominent Ukrainian and Russian socialist activists that is being sponsored by the Ukraine Solidarity Network, supporting Ukraine’s right to self-determination, who will be visiting Chicago at the time of our Convention. The official announcement of the tour by the Ukraine Solidarity Network, is the following:
“Resisting Russian Imperialism: Ukraine’s Struggle for Self-Determination”
“In a brazen act of imperialist aggression, Russia attempted to conquer Ukraine. But Ukrainians stopped them in their tracks, mounting a mass military and civilian resistance. Ukrainian socialist Alona Liasheva will be joined by Russian socialist Ilya Budraitskis in Chicago and New York and Russian Socialist Ilya Matveev in the Bay Area to analyze the nature of the war and argue for the left to support Ukraine’s struggle for self-determination and a progressive not neoliberal reconstruction of the country.”
Next, we plan to continue with our international theme supporting democracy against authoritarian governments with a 6 to 8 minute video introducing an invited delegation to our Convention from the Hungarian Socialist Party, that we met at the Socialist International Conference in Madrid. This would be followed by address to the Convention by members of the Hungarian Socialist Party. We also plan on having a panel discussion about the erosion of democracy in their country and how we can help campaign for democracy in Hungary and how America can be more aware of what’s going on with the rise of fascism in Europe and populism! At this time, we are waiting to hear from the delegation if they are coming.
In addition, we will have Godden Zama, a representatives of the Social Democratic Front of Cameroon to speak at the Convention.
Day 2, Sunday September 3: The morning session will consists of internal SDUSA business, including considering resolutions submitted to the convention.
In the afternoon session, we will have the following guest speakers:
Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman, representative, Monroe County legislature. (D)
Eve Shippens, common council candidate Buffalo New York, (D)
Aaron Coleman, Kansas City Kansas and former statehouse representative in Topeka. (D)
Mary Jobaida, Democratic Socialist organizer Niagara Falls New York. (WFP)
Working Families Party, regional organizer of the Western New York chapter of the Working Families party Victoria Misuraca.
Please be advised that throughout the day, we’ll be doing activities, different activities, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. so be prepared to hang out with us and have a cool time!
Day 3: September 4, Labor Day: Labor Day celebration both at Eugene V Debs Hall and Buffalo’s Olmsted Cazenovia Park, in South Buffalo, will host the parade. But the host of the overall parade is going to be done by New York AFL-CIO, WNY, (Western New York). The parade is going to be very busy so be prepared and ready to go by 10:30 11:00 a.m. Delegates to the convention will be marching in the parade as the SDUSA contingent, walking behind our banner. If you have a banner for the parade please feel free to bring it! We’re going to be bringing ours and carrying some handheld American flags along with social democracy flags!
The Labor Day parade is taking place at Caz Park, more details for the rally point will be given upon arrival.. And we can join the labor unions together after the parade in the park for the annual picnic! It’ll give you a chance to meet AFL-CIO New York’s most prominent member organizations, like, United Steelworkers, CWA, Communication Workers of America, SEIU, Service Employees International Union, and other unions like the United Auto Workers, and the Working Families Party as well!! Many politicians locally will be in the parade like Buffalo’s Mayor, Congress person, and State Senator and the State Assembly member, including NYS Governor Kathy Hochul.
At 3:00PM, we will return to Eugene V Debs Hall for the resumption of our formal Convention program. The main event will feature our special guest, Mark Talley as our keynote speaker, He is the organizer: of the organization “Agents for Advocacy” in Buffalo, New York.. His beloved mother Geraldine.was killed. on May 22, 2022, as one of 13 victims of a racially motivated shooting at the Tops supermarket in the predominately Black east side of Buffalo, by a white supremacist, who lived far outside of the city. All the victims were Black and 10 of the 13 were killed and 3 injured. Mr. Talley will speak on the topic: “Stomp out white supremacy, bigotry, and right-wing fascism.”
Day 4, Tuesday, September 5: Dennis King will speak on “Red and Brown: The Dangers of Extremes Meeting in US Politics”
Day 5, Wednesday, September 6 will be devoted to internal SDUSA business including further consideration of resolutions.
In addition, if time permits, we will have an excursion to Niagara Falls and other points of interest around the Buffalo area.
NOTE: However, we want our members to have a role in planning the convention. We are looking for suggestions on speakers and topics that you believe should be on the agenda of the convention. We also want you to summit resolutions to be debated for approval by the delegates to the convention. Any member who attends the convention, either in person, or via ZOOM is considered a delegate to the convention. The deadline for submitting resolutions is Monday,. August 7. 2023.
Michael Mottern, First Vice-Chair of SDUSA, is the Buffalo Local’s coordinator for the convention For information on traveling to Buffalo and accommodations, contact him at 716-279-5466 or at his e-mail address, email@example.com.
David A. Hacker is the National Secretary of SDUSA.