As a senatorial hopeful, Steve Hoffman brings a lifetime of experience to his campaign — as a unionist, anti-fascist organizer and defender of immigrants and civil liberties. He represents his union on the Martin Luther King County Labor Council and is a member of the Freedom Socialist Party National Committee. Hoffman is also a frequent writer for the Freedom Socialist on labor and environmental issues. His endorsers include the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) Local 304, Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity, and Radical Women.
On a lightly snowing evening in February, a packed crowd in Hall 8 of the Seattle Labor Temple celebrated the campaign kick-off. Supporters spoke to Hoffman’s commitment.
His passion is contagious. To avoid paying an outrageous $1,750 filing fee, volunteers have collected petition signatures instead. As of March 10, this people-powered effort has gathered well over half of the 2,500 signatures needed.
To get involved, contact Advocates for Hoffman at 206-722-2453 or VoteSocialism@gmail.com.
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MV — Tell me a bit about your background and why you want to go to D.C.
SH — I grew up in Ohio, got out of high school and joined the Navy. At Pearl Harbor I kept thinking of all the money that went into constructing these massive ships. Since I left the military I have marched against every war.
For the past 27 years I’ve been the Maintenance Engineer at North Seattle College. I am the Recording Secretary and a shop steward for my union, WFSE 304. I spend a lot of time defending workers, especially women, against bullies on the job. I’ve become the “go-to” shop steward for people being harassed. And that’s given me good experience of how to represent working people.
I am a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, and Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity. OWLS’ motto is, “kicking ass for the working class.” That’s what I want to do in Washington, D.C. if elected.
The problems we face and the causes stem from a capitalist system that is global, and you can’t solve them on a local level. Think about the wars, they drain money way from what we could be doing, like health care and services. Currently, we have two parties, and no representation. It’s time for working people to declare their political independence from both the Democrats and Republicans. Too many of today’s politicians are bought and paid for by corporate interests. My candidacy challenges that.
MV — Reproductive rights, immigration and housing are all hot issues. What’s your take on them?
SH — I am for abortion on demand, period. I mean it’s a woman’s body. They deserve to control it without the state interfering, or religious bigots.
I am totally opposed to any kind of discrimination based on race, gender, gender identity, age, disability, immigration status or anything like that. We have got to fight against any kind of discrimination because it just divides us as working people.
As for immigration, hell no to a wall! The bosses under capitalism have this sacred right to move their capital, money and their factories, and our jobs and anybody else’s jobs across the border at will. But a worker crosses the border to follow the work to survive, and that worker is a criminal. We have got to change that. Open the borders, disband ICE, and full civil rights and labor rights for all.
And on DACA, the Democrats should have held out for more. The immigration reform proposals on the table give the Dreamers legal status, but are going to make it easier to deport their parents. What kind of viciously cruel alternative is that?
Regarding affordable housing, I would tax the corporations and the accumulated wealth of the rich and end spending on the military, which is over 50 percent of the federal budget. Use that money to build a hell of a lot more public housing.
People can’t get out of homelessness until they have some stability in their lives. They might need social services, drug treatment or whatever. Or maybe they just need a job that pays enough to live on and access to education, so they can get those jobs.
Part of the Civil Rights Movement was the war on poverty. Over the years that has turned into the war on the poor. It’s disgraceful.
MV — The Puyallup Tribe is fighting to stop the Liquid Natural Gas plant from going into Tacoma, Wash. Where do you stand on the question of fracking?
SH — Well I am against fracking, which Senator Maria Cantwell has been a big supporter of. It’s an ecological catastrophe. We have to move away from fossil fuels. That is I why I support the Puyallup tribe and their fight.
I propose that we nationalize the energy industry under workers’ control and make it accountable to the public. So the workers and the public make decisions. We can make a swift transition to sustainable renewable energy sources and cut down the carbon emissions that are messing up the planet.
MV — For decades you have organized union and community resistance to neo-Nazis. Last August you spoke at a rally against Joey Gibson and the far-right Patriot Prayer. Gibson is now running on the Republican ticket for Washington state Senate. What’s your take on him?
SH — The guy is a hyper nationalist. He does not have progressive solutions for working people, especially for those who get the rawest deals, like women and people of color. When he’s on stage he is surrounded by people in Nazi regalia and Klan and white supremacist-type symbols. This guy looks more like a fascist than anything else. And he allies himself with groups who are fascist thugs.
MV — You’re a proud socialist. What does that mean to you?
SH — Well, under capitalism everything is geared towards making a profit. It’s not what people need, it’s what’s makes some corporations or capitalists more money. A lot of waste and bad decision-making goes into it.
And it also pits workers against each other in the race to the bottom. Over the last 40 years, the productivity of workers has more than doubled. But somehow the standard of living keeps going down.
Enough of this, we need a socialist system where the workers are in charge and enterprises are owned by people collectively, run democratically and the workers call the shots about what’s produced and produce what’s needed. We provide everyone health care and a clean environment instead of building B-1 bombers. And everything is based to meet people’s needs and not to generate profits for a few to become fabulously rich.
This is what socialism looks like.
Published originally in the Freedom Socialist newspaper.