Teacher and union member Dan Piper for CT State Rep, 1st District!
On May 28, Dan Piper announced his bid for Connecticut State Representative in the first district as a candidate for the Socialist Resurgence Party. Piper is running for office to oppose the sacrifice of working-class lives demanded by President Trump and by Governor Lamont and his fellow Democrats such as House Majority Leader Matt Ritter (the present representative in District 1).
Dan Piper is a 37 year-old Hartford resident, public school teacher, union member, and longtime activist. Piper’s first experience at a march came at age 16 when he joined the Dead Prisoner’s Parade in Boston to protest the deaths of 34 incarcerated people in 1998. From the fight to defend the Danbury 11 onward, he has joined campaigns to stop anti-immigrant ICE raids and deportations.
Piper has participated in efforts to stop police brutality, win a $15/hour minimum wage, bring war dollars home, stop FBI harassment of activists, stop entrapment and surveillance of Muslims, stop tuition hikes for public higher ed in CT, stop and end U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Iran, stop the Dunkin Donuts stadium, and stop attacks on civil liberties. Piper is currently a member of CT Workers’ Crisis Response (CWCR) and Socialist Resurgence.
The text of Piper’s talk at a May 28 online news conference follows. The Facebook video is here: https://www.facebook.com/SocialistResurgenceCT/videos/685174962056132/?
Good morning everyone. Thank you in advance for taking time out of your day to join me. My name is Dan Piper. And I am announcing my campaign for the office of State Rep in the 1st district of Connecticut. I am running as a candidate for the Socialist Resurgence Party.
Before I explain why I decided to run, I wanted to take a moment to say something about the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. I don’t have anything particularly insightful to say other than there is no question that the four police officers responsible for George Floyd’s death must be tried for murder. It is worth thinking about the fact that Michael Brown was murdered by police nearly six years ago; there are now dozens more names of African Americans slain by the police which are now known by the world, and still, police officers can kill a Black man in broad daylight, while being recorded.
I and Socialist Resurgence stand in solidarity with the movement developing in the streets of Minneapolis and across the U.S. demanding justice for George Floyd. We oppose any use of the National Guard in Minneapolis. In Connecticut as well, police brutality and murder are recurring facts of life—as the murders of Jayson Negron, Jose Soto, Zoe Dowdell, and Hartford’s Jashon Bryant show, among many others. We encourage all to attend the action on June 6 at 3PM at the New Haven City Hall to demand justice for Mubarak another victim of police murder.
I live in Hartford and I teach in a public school. I am also a union member.
Without a doubt, this is a critical moment for people who need to work in order to live. After living through one of the greatest crises and disruptions in our lives, we are entering into at least two more.
Last Wednesday, May 20, 2020, Governor Ned Lamont joined President Donald Trump and governors throughout the U.S. in a campaign to begin rolling back some of the few measures in place meant to slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Working people have spent more than two months doing our best to slow this plague and the people in power have done almost nothing to prepare for its end.
When the pandemic hit this country, hospitals were already running on bare-bones supplies, doctor visits had been stripped down to a handful of minutes, and 60,000 people were already dying every year for want of health coverage. Fundamentally, we all knew these were the conditions in this country.
But when the pandemic hit here, we also learned that the rot went much further. Everywhere, people in positions of authority denied the crisis, delayed action, failed to act even remotely appropriately, and even sabotaged attempts to mitigate the pandemic.
To be sure, Trump was and is the most visibly and grotesquely at war with reality. It is hard to beat a man who advocates cleaning people’s lungs out with bleach. But it turns out that Trump is just in the lead.
Everywhere, working people have had to fight tooth and nail for PPE, for social distancing measures, to close their workplaces, and even to get sick leave in the middle of a pandemic. While managers locked themselves in their offices or even went home, they sent workers to work in hotels without even gloves “because they look unprofessional.”
Before workplaces were closed by the state, workers were already walking out. Before governors were closing down schools parents were keeping their kids home. Some teachers were even organizing sick-outs. Some 100,000 people died here in the last 75 days because the people who give orders in this country waited months before taking any kind of action, and then they did very little. If those who actually do the work had not acted on their own, that count would be much higher already. The death toll is a product of decisions made at every level of authority.
Prisons are some of the biggest incubators of COVID-19. Here in Connecticut, Governor Lamont has refused to release anyone early from their prison sentences. All around the world, governments are releasing people from prison to protect the incarcerated and the society at large. Meanwhile, Governor Lamont cannot identify a single person—not one—whom he thinks should be released—not even to protect staff and everyone whom they and their families come into contact with.
No one is making Lamont keep thousands of people in prison and jail through a pandemic. Nor is anyone making him keep military production at Electric Boat running, or at Sikorsky or at Pratt and Whitney, or at the many smaller shops around the state.
Lamont is responsible for keeping construction of luxury homes going throughout this whole crisis, requiring workers to crowd into service elevators and share port-a-potties just so developers can drive up housing prices and push more people with less money out of their own neighborhoods.
All of these decisions—and many more—were made by people in positions of authority in this state with the knowledge that they would result in many deaths. For them, these calculations are routine. Just as they know that some 2000 -3000 people will die every year from workplace accidents and another 20,000 -30,000 will die from workplace illnesses. Just as Cuomo knows the consequences of cutting Medicaid in the middle of a pandemic. The fact that these policies would hit people of color the hardest was most certainly part of their calculation.
Trump and Lamont, and both of their parties, know too that rolling back the few measures taken to curb the pandemic will cause more people to die. Trump’s own administration has calculated these increases.
And every day new information comes out about how unprepared Connecticut is for any further rollback of social distancing. Lamont says there’s enough PPE, but now nursing home workers are told they cannot give residents showers because it will use up too much PPE. So how then, is there enough PPE? Lamont says he has set up a robust testing and tracing apparatus, but now his own officials say there isn’t enough staff or training.
Even from the start, Lamont used the lowest available estimates for how much testing would be needed to safely roll back distancing measures. Most experts estimate that we need between five and 50 times as many tests per week as Lamont has organized the state for.
The state representative in my district, Matt Ritter, has not said one word in public to oppose Lamont’s pandemic policies. He does not call for the release of prisoners. He does not call for the closure or conversion of military manufacturing. He does not call for a pause in luxury home construction. He does not call for more testing or a lower infection rate before workers are told they have to go back to work in restaurants, shopping malls and salons. His online accounts are merely promotional vehicles for the Lamont administration.
Once again, the parties of big business are ready to sacrifice the lives of working people to rescue the profits of a few rich people. Once again, people of color, immigrants and women are the main objects of this sacrifice. The vast majority of working people oppose this roll-back. Poll after poll shows this. The reality of life after such roll-backs shows this too. Working people still refuse to go shopping like they’re told to. They know that even the customers are not safe.
Working people have sacrificed enough for the mistakes and for the enrichment of the wealthy. If workers are taking the risks and making the sacrifices, then workers should decide when to go back to work, under what conditions and for what purpose.
The roll-back of social distancing measures does not merely mean more infection. It also means an end to the financial measures keeping people from abject poverty. In Ohio, the state is telling employers to report people who miss work without special exemptions so they can be removed from unemployment rolls. In Connecticut, Lamont and reporting in the Courant make it clear that the “reopening of the economy” means that workers in the reopened sectors will now be eligible for termination with cause should they not report to work at restaurants and malls. In Texas, the state supreme court has reopened evictions and debt collection—including the garnishment of wages. In New Orleans, striking workers are replaced with prison labor.
In a period where some 39 million people have applied for unemployment, and some four in 10 have not received it—where food lines are growing everywhere—these are barbaric measures.
But this is what millionaire businessmen like Lamont mean when they talk about “reopening the economy.” For them, “the economy” means other people producing more value for rich people than it takes to keep them alive and compliant. For people like Lamont, and Trump, and Matt Ritter, “the economy” means the conditions under which people will voluntarily do this kind of work, where people will beg to do this kind of work.
This is why, the other day, senior White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett said the economy is looking good because “our human capital stock is ready to get back to work.” They think of us as human capital stock—their human capital stock. For them, everything that allows them to treat us as such is natural and good. And this tells us what is coming next: An assault on the working class unlike one we have ever seen in our lives.
For the owners of banks, corporations and big property, the crisis is not that millions of people are struggling to eat, or that millions are threatened with homelessness. It is that their profits are endangered. They intend to save their profits. That means getting people to work as hard as possible for as little as possible.
That is why keeping people in prison is so important for Lamont and his party. For about 45,000 people on probation or parole in Connecticut, the threat of jail time can be used to make some very productive, complaint-free workers. Releasing people from prison on a technicality would remove that threat.
The debts that come out of this crisis, and the threats of hunger and homelessness will be used as a cudgel to get people working hard, long, flexible, precarious hours for little pay. As more people are sent back to work while schools are closed, many will have to stay home to take care of their kids, losing work and income while unemployment and other supports are removed. This will largely affect women, making them an even more vulnerable part of the workforce.
The Democrats and Republicans both intend to use the crisis of public budgets as a pretext to cut public sector wages, layoff thousands, and to cut and privatize essential services.
As for the people who risked and sacrificed the most in this pandemic—elder-care workers, medical workers, grocery store workers, servers, retail workers, manufacturing workers, construction workers, the elderly and all of their family and friends—Lamont and Ritter, the Democrats and the Republicans are already planning on cutting their services to pay for the crisis. They are already planning on evicting their family and friends.
Is this necessary or inevitable? Most of these workers pay about 12% of their income in state and local taxes. The richest 1% of residents here pay about 8% of their income. If the richest residents in Connecticut simply paid the same percentage of their income as the poorest residents—the same people that everyone is thanking up and down for their heroism—there would be no budget crisis. The state might not even need to keep handing the rich a tidy profit for the privilege of borrowing the money it could be taxing. This is not even to mention the incredible wealth appropriated by big business in this state that goes untaxed.
There is enough wealth in this state and in this country to pay for all the basic needs working people have and more. Manufacturing shops can be retooled to make medical supplies, PPE and testing equipment. And then retooled again to make a transition to 100% renewable power. A single public health-care plan could not only provide healthcare to all in this state, it could cut costs in half. Food can be made available for free to all who need it. Renting costs could be based on maintenance rather than market rates, and then subsidized by the state at very low cost for those who need it. No one needs to be evicted. No one needs to be homeless. There is already plenty of housing for everyone.
But Lamont has already made it clear that he is more interested in taxing groceries than taxing the wealthy, or their businesses. And single-payer health care is never on the table. And his party plans to expand the use of fracked gas, rather than renewable power. And driving up housing costs is so essential for them that they continue construction of luxury housing during a pandemic.
And I know what some of you—maybe all of you—are thinking. “We can’t tax the rich as much as everybody else. They’ll leave!” If true, it is worth pausing to consider what that says about the rich.
There is a half-truth here. It is this: Lamont and Ritter cannot tell the ultra-rich what to do. Really, it works the other way around. Lamont and Ritter work for the ultra-rich. If the ultra-rich don’t want to pay more in taxes, Lamont, Ritter, and the entire Democratic and Republican parties combined cannot and will not make them. But, just because the Lamont and Ritter are not going to force the rich to do anything they don’t want to do, doesn’t mean no one can. Their power isn’t limitless. No matter how much money the rich have, working people have even more when they put their hands in their pockets with purpose.
The money of the wealthy is useless if they can’t get anyone to work for them. When the people who actually run the society stop doing what they’re told, the rich become powerless. Will the rich pay a little more just to calm that kind of situation down? They probably will.
What does it mean to create this kind of situation? First of all, it means we stop trying to convince the Lamonts and the Ritters to do the right thing. It means we start organizing on our own to win what is necessary. This is why we need movements of working and oppressed people independent of the employers and their parties.
There is an alternative future, where people get what they need to live and where we can take real measures against this plague. The recent fight against the bosses’ pandemic policy suggests that this fight is possible. As do the recent mass international actions for women’s liberation—as do the titanic struggles in recent months throughout the world, from Chile to Puerto Rico, to Haiti to India; as do the recent struggles led by teachers; as do the rebellions against police brutality in this country—coming to life again in Minneapolis.
But this alternative will only be possible if working and oppressed people can get together and fight with their own strength—independent from the parties of their bosses. And we will never be able to wage an independent fight if we are not also organized politically. If we are not organized with the intent to take power in our own name. We will always feel the need to go begging for one of our bosses’ parties in the end. We will always end up playing by their rules.
Today I am announcing my candidacy for the Connecticut House of Representatives in the first district. I am running as a Socialist Resurgence candidate. Our campaign will strive to expose the bosses’ parties, to show the alternatives, to show how working people can win when they unite across sectors and fight independently from their employers, to help build the fightback against the coming attacks on workers, and to show that working people should run this society.
And that is why today, I am joining Unidad Latina en Accion at the State Capitol to demand an emergency fund for undocumented workers who have been excluded from all emergency assistance during the pandemic. An injury to one is an injury to all. If we are to win what we need we must fight for each other. Everyone should join this essential fight at the capital this afternoon, Thursday, May 28, at 3:00 p.m.
If you are interested in learning more about my party, Socialist Resurgence, please look us up online at socialistresurgence.org and on Facebook. If you are interested in getting involved in the campaign or in the party itself, please contact us. Thank you.