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How we use Socialist Worker
"Connecting us to what we can do"

Socialist Worker 500th issue supplement

FOR SOCIALISTS, a revolutionary newspaper isn't just an alternative source of news, but a tool for organizing an opposition to injustice and oppression. Here, we asked Socialist Worker readers and sellers in the ISO about how they used the paper at work and on campus.

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ADAM MEYER works at a Hyatt Regency hotel in Austin, Texas.

THE USE of Socialist Worker in my workplace (one of them anyway) has been a very interesting experience.

Some time ago, when there were more people and slightly more time to move around (there's about 300 people employed at my hotel and about 60 in my department), I could sell freely--though it was always tough to get the buck. But people would be more than interested to read and discuss the paper. I was distributing probably 17 to 20 papers pretty consistently--and when the Spanish edition of SW came out, maybe 15 more.

There was a bit of a clampdown, and I was told repeatedly to "watch out"--that I could be fired for solicitation. Then, just after the union tried to organize the convention services department and failed, management flew into a paranoid frenzy of anti-union activity. I myself was actually escorted off the property for distributing pro-union materials and leaflets about the Congress Hotel strike in Chicago.

They definitely watch me, but more often than not, I get the paper in. Usually, I stash them in the "permitted" newspapers like the Houston Chronicle paper or Austin Statesman.

I give a few copies to the room service guy, who, while he's on a tray run, gives one or two to my friends at the bar. The kitchen dish room and custodial areas are mine--they can't fuck with me, and I'll never be ratted on with the people we have right now. Even my floor supervisor cuts me slack, and we talk politics.

So the lesson I guess I've learned is to be careful, but that if you're known as a political person and do things that people know about around town, then you get taken seriously.

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AMY MULDOON is a technician at Verizon in New York City.

I WORK for Verizon and am active in the Communications Workers of America. I sell Socialist Worker to a handful of coworkers every week, and it has been the best tool I can imagine to help people see beyond the common garbage that the mainstream media puts out.

Besides being a great source of "alternative" information, I use the paper to draw out why the things we experience are the way they are: It's not just that our managers are scumbags, which they are, but there is pressure in the telecommunications market to raise productivity and maximize profits. And being able to write for the paper shows my coworkers that there is a forum for our issues that other working people can read and respond to.

This was helpful, especially when I was part of building a reform movement in our local, in showing that we aren't alone. Millions of people are disgusted and want change, but our "leaders" and "representatives" aren't offering any real options.

Within the union, the labor pages give me ammunition to show how we can fight the bosses and rebuild our union power. Lately, the coverage of John Kerry has been invaluable to confirm the gut distrust and disappointment so many people feel. Socialist Worker isn't just something we read--it connects us to what we can do.

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ADRIENNE JOHNSTONE is a 3rd grade teacher at Carver Elementary School in San Francisco.

HOW DO I use Socialist Worker at my job? If you come to my classroom, you'll see the "Bring the Troops Home NOW!" poster outside of my door. It's been there all year and has brought coworkers and parents into my classroom to talk about politics and ask questions about what is going on with the war. It has put me out there as an activist and open socialist at my workplace.

I sell the paper in sporadic fits and starts to my coworkers, mostly around issues of the war, but also around the case of Kevin Cooper--a San Quentin inmate on death row whose execution was stayed this spring due to pressure from anti-death penalty activists in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the ISO and others.

People know that Socialist Worker doesn't claim some false "objective news coverage." They appreciate that our paper has an analysis and takes a stand for working people on the issues they care about.

Following the coup in Haiti, I approached a coworker who used to live there and offered her a paper so she could check out what socialists have to say about the role of the United States, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in recent Haitian history. She is now a regular reader of the paper and bought the most recent International Socialist Review. She also attended our regional conference this spring and spent a good deal of time at our literature table. She has become a more serious and dedicated union member at our school and supports the work of socialists in struggles around the war and gay marriage.

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TOM BARTON works as a social worker at Bellvue Hospital in New York City, where he is a shop steward in AFSCME Local 768.

MY FAVORITE example of how Socialist Worker can bring real change in the real world has to do with Bellevue Hospital, where I work.

Last winter, construction was going on for a new building. A huge, deep excavation was dug right next to one of Bellevue's old buildings. Cracks started appearing on the outside the old building. Then cracks in the walls started appearing inside. Doors began to jam, and the floor began to shake at odd moments for no apparent reason. The cracks got bigger. Plaster started falling, and a ceiling came down on an upper floor.

A Social Work Department room had to be abandoned as the crack got big enough to stick your hand in. Staff were rightly afraid to go through the door. Meanwhile, a hospital safety worker tried in vain to get somebody in management to take the problem seriously. He said he hoped the old building would come down on a weekend, when most people weren't there.

After a water main burst and filled the construction hole with water, softening the cement that the contractor had put in to try to stabilize the old building, real fear spread through the staff--along with gallows humor about how workers in other buildings would welcome "refugees" from the endangered building if it collapsed, "provided you can make it out in time."

Nothing worked. The union said to call them if the building fell down. New York City newspapers couldn't have been less interested. One reporter said, "Call back if anything really happens."

Finally, Socialist Worker offered to run a news story about the danger of building collapse, with a photo of one of the wall cracks. That issue of Socialist Worker spread like wildfire, not only at Bellevue, but at the New York University Medical School, which also had staff at risk in the building. NYU Medical School raised hell. Even managers at Bellevue were running around trying to get Socialist Worker.

Two days after the paper hit town, building inspectors showed up late on a Friday and issued an emergency order stopping the construction "forthwith." The corporation doing the new building lost its contract, and construction has not resumed to this day--too risky.

Socialist Worker won a reputation among a lot of Bellevue workers as a paper that can be trusted to care about them and have an impact.

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BOB QUELLOS is a student at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

THE LAST few months brought us grueling photos of torture committed by the U.S. military within the walls of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq--providing a view into the brutal reality of the occupation. This has left many people outraged and looking for an alternative to that put forward by Kerry and Bush.

Socialist Worker has been able to fill this void for people as it continues to print the truth with headlines like "This is what occupation looks like"--alongside articles that link the torture in Iraq to atrocities in Vietnam, Japan and Chicago's South Side. SW's bold headlines led the ISO branch at the University of Illinois-Chicago to engage in a high level of political discussion at school and workplaces that we hadn't seen since before the invasion of Iraq.

But bold headlines aren't enough to get people involved, and SW is aware of this. Using the articles within the paper has been the key to convincing people that the current situation in Abu Ghraib is not the workings of a few bad apples within the military, but instead is a result of a system that oppresses people for profit. The articles inside SW make the links and show that the average American has more in common with the average Iraqi than either Bush or Kerry.

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