HOUSTON — Texas is known for hot weather, but the heat of struggles is exceptional this fall. We progressives in Houston find ourselves literally running from one event to another without time to catch our breath.
Race for DeLay’s seat
The resignation of disgraced U.S. Rep Tom DeLay has left a major stumbling block for the right wing. Because of DeLay’s jockeying for power and position, courts ruled that only his name or no name could be placed on the ballot for the Republican Party. They wisely chose to have no Republican on the ballot. The GOP selected Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, a physician and Houston City Council member, to be the endorsed write-in candidate in Texas’ 22nd Congressional District. There are only two names on the ballot, Nick Lampson for the Democratic Party and Bob Smithers for the Libertarians. Smithers is not considered to have a chance of winning. Lampson’s ads blast Sekula-Gibbs for voting to reduce police and firemen’s wages while shamelessly voting to increase her own salary on the City Council.
Lampson has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO. The powerful union federation has 15,000 members in CD 22 and is going all out to get him elected. Teams of union members are visiting and phoning union households. Union members are much more likely to vote than other sectors of the population, so their voices will be heard in this election. One volunteer said that out of over 120 union households visited, only two expressed support for Sekula-Gibbs. The volunteer also said most union members were excited about the possibility of getting representation for working people in the district.
Working people’s issues have been ignored by DeLay and his minions since he first took office in 1994. It looks like the chickens will come home to roost in November.
Texans and the war
Meanwhile, a Houston Chronicle poll indicates 52 percent of Texans state that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are the most important issues facing the nation. This number is nearly double the percent of Americans who rate the wars as their top issue of concern in nationwide polls. The Chronicle quotes David Gates, 75, a retired engineer from Beaumont who called the war “a horrible disaster, and entirely unwarranted” and said it puts a strain on national resources.
Janitors take to the streets
Janitors affiliated with SEIU walked off the job Oct. 23. Currently, janitors in Houston make a little over $5 an hour, are not allowed to work full time and have no health insurance. Janitors in other cities working for the same companies make $8 to $10 an hour, are allowed to work 40 hours and have health care coverage.
The strikers were joined by elected officials on picket lines downtown during rush hour last week. Hundreds of janitors held a march in the Galleria shopping area Oct. 28 to highlight their struggle.
The Houston Chronicle has been running daily articles about the inhumane treatment janitors in Houston receive. A huge front-page story in Rumbo, a local Spanish language publication, read “Huelga!” which in English is “Strike!”
Even in Houston, home of George Bush and considered safe territory for right wingers, the struggle for working people’s issues is undeniable.