Hospital Lab Technician and Union Representative Joe Williams is one for five candiates running to replace Congressman Sam Farr. Williams, who is from Santa Cruz , calls himself a Berniecrat and is on the ticket for the Peace and Freedom Party. Journalist Lewis Leader interviewed Williams about why he’s running.
Lewis Leader (LL): Many would say Peace and Freedom has no chance of winning this seat. Is that a daunting task? Do you think that’s an unrealistic statement?
Joe Williams (JW): Well, I think the way it is now, I have a better chance than ever again because of the entrance of Bernie Sanders in the race and talking about socialism.
LL: Historically, socialism in this country has not done that well. Has that changed now?
JW: Oh, I think you’re seeing it in the recognition of the young people that have flocked to Sanders’ campaign, whether it’s looking at the debt they’re saddled with from student loans, whether they’re looking at the job market out there. They just don’t see anything that’s going to give them a higher standard of living than their parents, let’s say. You just had that recent release here of the Panama Papers, and all the rich folks are stashing their money in offshore accounts overseas. It’s like, ‘hey, where did that money come from?’ Well, the workers made that. Capitalists survive off the back of labor. So, labor created that wealth and then that wealth is not trickling down at all. It’s being funneled, full spigot on, offshore. So, anything we can do to bring that back and use that for people’s needs, I think people recognize that as the right approach.
LL: What do you see and what are you campaigning on as the major issues in this campaign?
JW: Well, I like to extrapolate just from like what I do in my daily life, so my work at the hospital. So health care, and again to reference off Bernie, Medicare for all, single-payer, universal health care, that kind of thing. I see the effects of the health-care industry in this country. I think it needs complete revamping. So, health care is the top of my list. It’s also my work as a steward representing workers against management. So, I guess my second priority would be strong unions. Let’s revitalize organized labor in this country. The third top priority would be peace activism, anti-war activism, if you will. I think we’ve had 15 years of this war on terror with no end in sight, and given my work in miitary counseling at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, it’s also very high on my priority list. If people have a takeaway in terms of like what are the distinctions between me and the top major party candidates in the race, the Democrat and the Republican, is they’re basically solidified on the war. That that’s the approach that works. I mean they’re both Navy veterans, they both laud their military service.
LL: You’re talking about Jimmy Panetta and Casey Lucius?
JW: Correct. So the distinctions couldn’t be greater because I advocate nonviolent solutions for all this stuff. And so that’s going to be the biggest distinction. Do you believe endless war? Even if there are jobs making missiles, is this the way, are we going to kill our way out of this problem? And I say no.
LL: Talking about the War on Terrorism, what’s your assessment of that and if you were elected to Congress what would you attempt to do?
JW: Well, at this point, I think I would scale back. On the campaign trail, I’ve actually called for a 10-year moratorium on war. I’m taking a look at everything we’ve tried so far going back to when we went into Afghanistan in late 2001 – up until now, nothing’s gotten better. In fact, everything’s gotten worse. So, my takeaway from that assessment is what we’re doing is not working and we need to try something else. So, military approach to this, firing more bullets, firing more missiles, blowing things up, we seem to be real good at that, but we don’t have any exit plan in place and in fact most plans say well that this is an endless War or Rerror, it will never end, this is a new normal until the end of time. I don’t accept that.
LL: I’m looking at an interview that the Salinas Californian did with you recently. And one of the points, it says “Williams urged the crowd to research the Basic Income Guarantee approach. ‘It’s basically welfare for all. Everybody gets a check’ regardless of your circumstances.” Can the government pay for that?
JW: Certainly. I think looking at the recent proposal – the people’s budget just put out by the Congressional Progressive Caucus – addresses this directly and it comes right out of the Pentagon Budget. What basic income does is set a floor, a monetary floor by which no one will fall below. So you want to guarantee that basic income for everybody. Then it’s like, well, you still have a chance to get rich or make a lot of money, but you can’t do it at the expense of your fellow citizens who are in poverty and in destitution.
Below you will find Lewis Leader’s interviews with candidates Casey Lucius and Jimmy Panetta. In the coming weeks, he’ll be interviewing Barbara Honegger and Jack Digby.
About the Interviewer: Lewis Leader is a journalist who was a longtime newspaper reporter and editor for 27 years with various publications including the Monterey Herald, San Francisco Examiner, Toledo Blade and Los Angeles Times.