Editor’s note: Below is an interview by Cathleen Williams with Desiree Rojas, a Democratic Party delegate for District 4 in Northern California.
Cathleen Williams: Desiree, you were elected as an Assembly Delegate to the Democratic Party for District 4 (Yolo/Solano County in Northern California). As a committed progressive organizer and outspoken Latina/Chicana, what issues do you bring to your Party work?
Desiree Rojas: Let me give you an example. A group of Democratic legislators in California introduced SB 562, the Healthy California Act, which would provide comprehensive universal single-payer health care coverage and a health care cost control system for the benefit of all residents of the state, including the undocumented.
This bill has been frozen even though Democrats control both the governorship and the legislature in California. With the California Nurses Union and others, we are fighting the establishment Democrats who are refusing to let SB 562 proceed through the legislative process. We want to hold the establishment Democrats accountable. They have never questioned how to fund a war, yet they are baffled about the funding of health care for all.
CW: You also brought to the local Democratic Party Convention a resolution supporting the Driscoll’s Berry Boycott. The boycott campaign exposes and protests the slave-labor working conditions and wages of Driscoll’s berry workers in Baja California, Mexico. How did the Democrats react?
DR: Look, we have to really remember and never forget that it was the Democrats who passed NAFTA, which was written by corporations. NAFTA created a lot of poverty in Mexico. It resulted in the devastation of small farmers. Seventy thousand were forced to migrate to Baja California to pick berries for Driscoll’s, desperate for any work, no matter the wages and conditions.
The resolution in support of the boycott was designed to bring the message to the Democrats that we have to change our foreign policy and take responsibility for the poverty and injustice that this Party has created. The resolution passed, but there was resistance from agribusiness interests in the Party.
CW: Are progressive delegates like yourself discussing the need to break away from the Democratic Party and create a new Party?
DR: I want to say yes. Absolutely. There is a split in the Party. Many establishment elected representatives are pretty much paid by corporations, including Big Pharma. That money trickles down to the delegates they appoint. The party functions as an “old boys club” of powerful white businessmen who are determined to maintain control. The grassroots elected delegates are one fourth of the total. We are fighting for democracy in the party and for the interests of the community.
What I’m finding is that there are many organizers and people who really understand how much this party is in trouble. They are fighting back inside the party. Also, a lot of people are proposing a “Demexit” and the need for a party that focuses on labor and the needs of the people.