Jovanka Beckles knows all too well how capitalism is an assault on working people’s health and well-being. As a social worker, she meets with children every day who suffer from severe asthma and other respiratory problems—not to mention the social and and financial costs that compound when working families have to cope with these chronic illnesses. Worst of all, these health problems are no coincidence; for years now, the people of Richmond, CA have been struggling against the Chevron oil refinery in their town and the environmental and public health impact of its rampant pollution.
Jovanka Beckles led this fight as a two-term City Council member backed by the Richmond Progressive Alliance, a coalition of corporate money-free politicians and organizers who took on Chevron and imposed $115 million in taxes on them, in addition to new environmental regulations to keep their community healthy. As part of the RPA, Jovanka helped fight back against corporate greed to address the devastating public health effects of the Chevron refinery.
Now, Jovanka wants to take that fight to Sacramento, and East Bay DSA has been working tirelessly to get her there. In fall 2017, Jovanka Beckles and the RPA approached our chapter about endorsing her campaign for State Assembly in California’s 15th District. After a spirited debate and candidate forum, our general membership voted overwhelmingly to endorse, and in a second vote agreed to commit substantial chapter resources to the campaign. Since then, we’ve been actively campaigning for Jovanka, ultimately winning one of the two-top runoff spots in a crowded primary to send this campaign into the November general election. As a proud democratic socialist (and DSA member), she has never touched a cent of corporate money in her political career, which means she can credibly champion a whole host of working-class issues. She’s advancing a program that includes universal rent control and publicly-funded social housing, free education from preschool to college, a $20 minimum wage and a 36-hour work week, and a Medicare for All, single-payer healthcare system for all California residents.
This platform offers a visionary set of demands for California that would transform working people’s lives. It also puts forward a genuinely socialist analysis of healthcare: “Our health is not a commodity to be bought and sold. We need a healthcare system that serves individual and community needs, not corporate profits.” Her platform advocates for a single-payer system in California that adheres to the fives principles of DSA’s Medicare for All campaign: a single program, offering comprehensive coverage, free at the point of service, with universal coverage regardless of citizenship, and a just transition for affected workers. She also highlights the connections between healthcare and labor, demanding safe staffing ratios at hospitals and advocating for unions in the healthcare sector who fight for workers’ and patients’ rights. And she wants to fight for immediate gains in access to healthcare, by expanding Medi-Cal access, funding public health initiatives, and addressing addiction as a medical, and not criminal, issue.
For East Bay DSA, our work to elect Jovanka Beckles has been a galvanizing force for our Medicare for All organizers and our chapter at large. We knocked 8,000 doors for her in the lead-up to the primary, and will knock 30,000 more before the election on November 6th—and each interaction at the door is a chance to talk to working people not just about Jovanka, but about Medicare for All as a socialist demand and the mass movement our campaign is building from coast to coast.
Our campaign for Jovanka Beckles has been about so much more than electing one person—it’s about growing our organization, spreading socialist politics and class consciousness, and advancing a bold set of demands that shift the boundaries of what is politically possible. Nothing highlights the scope of these efforts better than her new campaign video, which speaks to how working people can come together and fight for a world that puts people over profit.
Matt Stone is an East Bay DSA organizer and a regional organizer for the DSA M4A campaign.