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May Day 2016: “We must provide the necessities for the people,” says labor leader

People’s Tribune Interview  |  Issue: May | June 2016

Editor’s note: The People’s Tribune (our sister publication) interviewed Richard Monje, Vice President of Workers United, about May Day, 2016—the international workers holiday.

On the significance of May Day, 2016

“May Day presents the opportunity to examine what is happening to the working class—with technology replacing labor. After the 2008 depression, working families were devastated by foreclosures. Prior to that, they were going bankrupt with healthcare costs. It didn’t just start in 2007-8. Jobs have been going overseas—only minimum wage jobs remain.

“The workers are increasingly frustrated. We see it in the struggles for housing, education, and healthcare, and in the struggles of women. We can go on and on about what a working class family faces in terms of the quality of life. The principal issue in New Hampshire, a 90% white state, is heroin addiction. In former working class areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, communities are devastated.

On a vision of the future

“The working class is beginning to express itself in activity.  Those of us who are leaders—in global climate struggles, Black Lives Matter, and every level of activism—must identify the steps to a new future. Cruz, Trump, Clinton, or Sanders hardly address the issues, at least not in a structural way. Can we show a path to creating a new society for people who are descendants of those who built this country, who sacrificed in wars, creating profits for the capitalist class? Can we restructure the justice, housing, and educational systems so a path for opportunity and a healthy life from the time children are 2 to 24 years old is created? If you don’t invest in the family —which means the community—we will continue to degenerate into a country at war with itself.

“So the battle for a regulated economy is key. We can’t let the market determine what happens to people—or we end up with homeless in the street, children without necessary nourishment, the Flint water crisis. We have to have a planned, regulated economy—whether its called socialism or communism—it doesn’t matter. Number one is providing for the immediate necessities of life to the people. If the corporations won’t provide, government must. We must restructure the economy and the application of technology to benefit the people. As we build the bridge to a new economy, we must construct a new infrastructure and institutions to guarantee democracy, justice, civil and equal rights for all—regardless of socio-economic status.

The next step

“The leaders, the practical leaders, must come together. They must embrace an understanding of what the solutions are.  You can’t do it without study, analysis of social development and educating the people about the true reality of what is happening in the country. We need to take books into the trenches. We must organize the preparation of young people around, science, history, current events. These steps are the path to reconnecting with what we have in common and creating a new future.”

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