For Public Ownership, Not Privatization, in Electric Power, Health, Education… 

What the Electric Power Crisis in California Shows—
When It Comes to the Basic Needs of Life, the Market Should Not Dictate

by Tony Mazzocchi                                             


The following are major excerpts from a presentation by Tony Mazzocchi, national organizer of the Labor Party, at a public forum entitled "Organizing For Public Power." Held on February 9, 2001, the forum was sponsored by the Golden Gate chapter of the Labor Party. Other forum speakers were Tom Ammiano, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors; Angela Alioto, past president of the S.F. Board of Supervisors; Graham Brownstein, community organizer; Medea Benjamin, founding director, Global Exchange; Dan Berman, author and labor activist; and Robin David, representative of the Golden Gate Labor Party chapter and member of Local 1245 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW; union listed for identification purposes only).

It's great to be among such a spirited crowd. ... I am not here to talk specifically about the solutions to the energy crisis. You in California, and particularly you here today, are framing this issue. That is what we in the Labor Party are all about; we attempt to frame the issue and move the process forward.

 If you look at the paramount issues raised by the Labor Party, you will see that it features those things that the market should have nothing to do with, such as electricity, healthcare, and education, among others. These are all part of the Labor Party program. ...

Based on my 51-year experience in my own union, which is a union in the energy sector, I would like to suggest that you seriously factor the utilities workers into the process—not with vagaries, but with a very specific program.

 For a Just Transition—Workers Must Not Pay for Conversion

These workers are fearful of losing their jobs. It is important to make it clear to them that as their plants and facilities are converted to public ownership, no worker will be dispossessed, and if they are, they will be compensated for life. Workers in the industry must not pay the price of conversion.

We cannot let the politicians divide us. We've got to assure the workers in the utilities industry that their jobs and contracts will not only be protected; they will be expanded. So I would suggest that you tackle this question head on. ... 

This is the time not only to talk about public utilities and electricity. It should be the catalyst for incorporating into the discussion the other issues such as healthcare, education, and housing. These are the issues where the market should not dictate what happens. 

Demand Free Public Education and Housing, and a National Health Care Program

We should be demanding free public education through the university level. 

We should be demanding free public housing. No one should be sleeping in the streets. 

We should be demanding uninterruptable utilities—whether it's water or electricity—with public ownership, which has been successful throughout our history—from the TVA to Bonneville. We have a long track record of success with public ownership. 

The Labor Party Program 

This is the time to educate, not just agitate, around who should control the vital needs of life—which is where the Labor Party's program comes in. 

And this is precisely the time because everyone is pissed off at the bipartisan deregulation and at the politicians, who have been funded by the utility corporations. People are especially angry when they see their mounting utilities bills month after month. 

This isn't only an issue for California. Working people across the country are looking closely at what is happening here. This is why what you do here can help resolve the question and set a new example of what can be done when working people, when the community, take public control of what they should own, and then work it successfully. 

Join the Labor Party 

That is why I call upon all of you to join the Labor Party. When you join the Labor Party, you send a message that you support the programs and proposals we are trying to reintroduce back into public consciousness, such as the view that working people are best served by public ownership. 

I applaud the efforts of the organizers of this meeting. Your fight is resonating across the country. Its success will help us build a major movement nationally to take back control of what is necessary to ensure the basic needs of life. 

I wish you great success. If you are successful, it will be a shot heard around the country. We look forward to working with you in this struggle.