JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Fifty people attended the April 1 meeting of the Regional Alliance of Students and Professionals to hear Lea Sherman, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New Jersey State Assembly, speak about her campaign. The meeting here, part of a monthly series on social issues, was built through their church, La Luz del Mundo.
The event was chaired by Esther Rodriguez, organizer of the group. The audience was in large part workers and students from Jersey City and the surrounding townships of Union City, Weehawken, and West New York, some of whom had their children with them.
“Licencias sí! Promesas no! Amnistía! Si se puede!” (Licenses, yes! Promises, no! Amnesty! Yes, we can!) Sherman said to applause to open her presentation. She explained that a week ago she had marched in Bridgeton to demand driver’s licenses for all. Bridgeton is in a rural farming area in southern New Jersey.
Seth Galinsky, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New York City Public Advocate, joined Sherman up front, translating her remarks into Spanish and participating in the discussion.
People asked a range of questions. Does the Socialist Workers Party have any members in New Jersey or New York sitting in positions of power? What do they do to help workers?
One woman read from the New Jersey SWP campaign statement about how declining real wages make it difficult for workers to start a family, asking what would you do to change this?
“You mentioned that you support driver’s licenses for everyone. What else are you going to do for undocumented immigrants?” Esther Rodriguez asked. And “what is socialism? So much is said about it.”
“Democrats and Republicans say vote for me and I’ll fight for you,” Sherman said. “But lesser-evil politics doesn’t work for the working class. They are parties of the bosses. We must fight together to make a change and build a new society based on solidarity, not on exploitation. Capitalism is a calamity for working people around the world, including its ongoing wars. It’s a moral question.”
She said the bosses at Walmart, where she works, were forced to raise wages to $15 an hour, but that isn’t enough to support a family today.
Change takes a movement of millions
Sherman explained that she grew up in the 1970s in Dallas before the civil rights movement exploded there and overthrew Jim Crow segregation. It wasn’t elected officials, Sherman said, but a movement of millions in the streets that ended Jim Crow.
“I call for amnesty for all immigrants living here without papers,” she said. “We need to strengthen the labor movement, to make our unions a vehicle to fight for the working class.”
“This isn’t an immigrant question,” Seth Galinsky added, “but a working-class issue. It’s the working class that creates the wealth. We pick the crops, build roads and housing, work in the factories. But the bosses and their government make the decisions.”
He pointed to the bosses at Boeing and how recent deadly crashes by two of their jets show why workers have to take control over production and safety.
Sherman encouraged everyone to participate in the statewide May Day march in Perth Amboy to demand driver’s licenses for all.
The lively discussion continued after the program, including around a table with books, leaflets and other literature the SWP campaigners brought with them. Six books were sold, including Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes, The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, and In Defense of the US Working Class by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters, as well as a subscription to the Militant.