Supporters of Alessio, a union coal miner, set up a campaign table at the event and introduced the socialist candidate to many of the hundreds of working people who attended from towns throughout the area.
"My campaign presents a fighting, working-class alternative to the twin parties of big business: the Democrats and Republicans. Two crucial and related questions facing working people are the imperialist war drive and the deepening depression conditions in the world," Alessio said after introducing himself to Paul Cruz, a retired miner and railroad worker from Craig.
Alessio explained his opposition to Washington’s preparations for launching an invasion of Iraq. He outlined his campaign’s program to unite working people in a fight for jobs, entitlements, and other social gains that are under attack.
Cruz replied, "Reagan tried to take away railroad retirement and then Clinton--from ‘my’ party, the Democratic Party--got in and tried the same thing," referring to former presidents Ronald Reagan and William Clinton.
The Third Congressional District encompasses most of western Colorado, including all of Colorado’s working coal mines and much of its sheep ranches. Alessio, 25, is an underground miner at the Deserado mine in Rangely, Colorado. He is a member of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local 1984. Alessio is also a member of the Young Socialists.
This year’s drought has forced ranchers in this state to sell more than half of their herds at rock-bottom prices because they cannot afford to buy hay to feed the cattle. At the Labor Day event, rancher Susan Rossi told Alessio, "The hay program doesn’t meet the needs of local ranchers, with the price of hay up to $185 a ton plus costs for trucking." He explained to her, "Our campaign calls on the federal government to provide immediate, massive relief funds for all working farmers and ranchers affected by the drought. We join in the fight to demand an end to farm and ranch foreclosures."
Rossi’s husband was president of a UMWA local at a surface mine during a fight in the 1980s when the company, Energy Fuel, decided to close the mine and open up the nonunion, underground Twenty Mile mine. "We organized a real fight, setting up picket lines at the mine and getting the word out in coalfields throughout the country," she said.
During the Labor Day action, many young people came up to the campaign table and signed up to find out more about the activities of Young Socialists for Alessio. They were attracted to the socialists’ opposition to Washington’s war drive and interested in the perspective of making a revolution to bring about a workers and farmers government.
By the end of the day campaigners had distributed dozens of campaign statements and sold 12 copies of the Militant, a subscription to Perspectiva Mundial, and several Pathfinder books.
When campaign director Jeff Powers went to Denver to submit a notarized affidavit at the secretary of state’s office to certify Alessio as an official write-in candidate, he was interviewed by the Pueblo Chieftain and the Associated Press. Coverage on Alessio’s campaign appeared in the Chieftain and on radio stations throughout the region.
"Our campaign is getting quite a response from my co-workers," Alessio reported. "A surface miner I worked with came up to me and asked, ‘Is it true you are running for Congress?’ He had heard it announced on a Utah radio station. He shook my hand and said, ‘That’s great!’ He called over another co-worker and told him I was running.
"Another co-worker asked about my campaign. I told him this campaign is not about me--it’s about workers and farmers standing up and defending our rights. He said he was glad I was running."
Campaigners also took the socialist alternative to the big Colowyo surface mine, where they gave out a lot of flyers and sold two copies of the Militant. Alessio was joined by two supporters with a prominent sign reading, "Alessio for Congress--Socialist Workers Party--No to Washington’s Imperialist War Drive." Just about every car stopped and miners in several cars spoke to the candidate at length. One miner, at first thinking Alessio was a Democrat or Republican, said neither party represented working people. When he realized Alessio was running on the Socialist Workers ticket he said, "Oh, you are the type of candidate I vote for!"
Another team went to the Trapper Mine, a union surface mine, and received a similar response. One miner stopped and said, "Yeah, I heard he threw his hat in the ring this morning on the radio. I wish him good luck."
Over the weekend, Alessio and his supporters went to the town of Meeker and set up a campaign table at a bluegrass band concert in the park, speaking with many ranchers and miners. A Rio Blanco Herald reporter approached Alessio to ask for an interview.
Socialists also campaigned door to door, went to a sheepdog contest, and set up a table at a store in Craig to meet working people. At the store, one rancher, who said he lost most of his crop and has received no government aid, volunteered to give Alessio a tour of the drought-stricken ranch land around Craig and help write an article for the Militant, to which he decided to subscribe.
Because of the pro-war, patriotic theme of the rallies organized by the AFL-CIO officialdom, the socialist campaigners did not march in the parades, but they plunged into political discussions and received a wide hearing from unionists they spoke with.
In New York, the Central Labor Council officials had organized a rally ceremony that, in the name of commemorating "our union brothers and sisters who died" on September 11, gave union cover to the U.S. employers’ drive toward a war of plunder in the Mideast. Nonetheless, socialist campaigners set up a table next to the crowd and engaged in nonstop discussions. "Not only did we not encounter any hostile response from workers there, we sold out all 15 copies of the Militant we had brought with us, and we passed out a lot of campaign leaflets," reported Margaret Trowe, Socialist Workers candidate for U.S. Congress in the 14th District.
In northeastern Pennsylvania, Betsy Farley, the Socialist Workers candidate for U.S. Congress in the 11th District, launched her campaign by joining the picket lines of striking teachers in Hazleton, and meeting garment workers at the entrance to the Hollander Home Fashions plant in Frackville. At the Labor Day parade they received a warm response from numerous workers. A retired garment worker, part of a group of retired unionists, said she was glad to hear someone speaking up against Washington’s war campaign. A young janitor said he was registered to vote Socialist Workers but it was the first time he had met an SWP candidate. He invited Bill Shriver, a young socialist campaigner, to come back and discuss the campaign the next weekend.
At the Philadelphia Labor Day rally, a team of campaigners introduced Hilda Cuzco, the socialist candidate for lieutenant governor in Pennsylvania, to workers in different union contingents, including members of the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE), International Long- shoremen’s Association (ILA), Laborers International Union, and teachers union.
Many of the longshore workers, organized in the ILA or Laborers, were particularly interested in the Socialist Workers championing of the West Coast longshore workers battle for a contract and their opposition to the U.S. government using "national security" as a pretext to intervene on the side of the shipping bosses. A young Laborer and an ILA member in particular expressed interest and signed up to be contacted about the Young Socialists for Lane and Cuzco. Anthony Lane, a union coal miner in Pittsburgh, is the Socialist Workers candidate for governor of the state.
In New York, a team of supporters of socialist congressional candidate William Estrada soapboxed in Washington Heights. "We took turns getting up on the milk crate," said Seth Dellinger, one of those campaigning with Young Socialists for Koppel and Hawkins, the SWP gubernatorial ticket. "Afterward, some of us went to the campaign headquarters and took part in a class on one of the pamphlets we’ve been campaigning with, The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning, by Jack Barnes. We were joined by a young electrician who just met our campaign."
Campaign with Young Socialists for Koppel and Hawkins for Governor and Lt. Governor of New York
Read about the Socialist Workers 2002 campaign in New York State