‘I’d like to see the miners fighting back everywhere’

By Tony Lane
and Paul Mailhot
August 5, 2019
Alyson Kennedy, SWP 2016 candidate for president, center, and Malcolm Jarrett, SWP candidate for Pittsburgh City Council, talk with Christy Cozby, a health care worker in Pittsburgh.
Militant/Arlene RubinsteinAlyson Kennedy, SWP 2016 candidate for president, center, and Malcolm Jarrett, SWP candidate for Pittsburgh City Council, talk with Christy Cozby, a health care worker in Pittsburgh.

NEW HILL, W.Va. — Alyson Kennedy, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president in 2016 and a former coal miner, and other SWP campaigners joined Judy Gillespie on her porch here July 20, discussing the SWP’s program. Gillespie got into the mines in 1977, and worked underground for 12 years, much of that time as a roof bolter.

“The conditions have changed since we were miners,” Gillespie said, pointing to how the unions have gotten weaker. She described a nearby nonunion mine where “the company has a room with cots. They put pressure on miners to work eight hours on and eight hours off and have you sleep at the mine between your shifts. It’s like they think they own you.”

Kennedy pointed to miners’ struggles that have stopped coal bosses from imposing those types of conditions, including the 2003-04 strike for union recognition she was part of in Huntington, Utah. “It was led by young miners, many of them originally from Mexico. We put up stiff resistance to the bosses’ demands, got support far and wide, and pushed them back. We will see that kind of struggle again.”

“I’d like to see it happen everywhere,” said Gillespie.

She wanted to learn more about the party and its program, and got Tribunes of the People and the Trade Unions, as well as Are They Rich Because They’re Smart?; The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record; and Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power, all by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes, along with a Militant subscription.

More than a dozen campaigners joined Kennedy and Malcolm Jarrett to knock on doors, July 18-21, in towns and coal areas in western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and in Pittsburgh’s City Council District 1, where Jarrett is the SWP candidate. A dozen people signed up for subscriptions to the Militant and bought 11 books by leaders of the SWP. Some 90 people added their names to a petition to put Jarrett on the ballot.

‘Things have to change’

“Things have to change,” health worker Christy Cozby told Jarrett and Kennedy at her door in Pittsburgh. “Housing should be a public utility,” she suggested, “so working people can afford decent places to live.”

“How is the SWP different from the Democratic Socialists of America?” Cozby asked.

“The DSA is part of the Democratic Party, which is a linchpin of the two-party system that helps to maintain the exploitation and oppression of working people,” Kennedy said. “The SWP presents the opposite course. We fight for independent working-class political action, and for working people to take power out of the hands of the war makers, the wealthy owners who cut wages and living conditions, who attack the rights of women and oppose equality for Blacks, who exploit immigrant workers and deny the rights of workers behind bars.”

The SWP draws on the rich history of the working-class movement in this country and around the world, Kennedy said. Cozby got a copy of Tribunes of the People and the Trade Unions, by Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, Leon Trotsky, Farrell Dobbs and Jack Barnes, and subscribed to the Militant.

The SWP’s demand for U.S. rulers to keep their hands off Iran, as well as Venezuela and Cuba, got a good response from many workers SWP campaigners met. “They tell us we’re defending our country, but we’re defending oil,” Army veteran Eric Dunbar told Mike Galati in the Beltzhoover neighborhood of Pittsburgh. “They do us dirty while we’re fighting their wars.”

“The Democrats have 24 announced candidates for the party’s presidential nomination in 2020, and Donald Trump is also running,” Kennedy told participants at a Pittsburgh campaign meeting July 20. “None of these capitalist politicians will do anything for working people.”

And the Democrats are being torn apart by race-baiting each other, trying to intimidate and shut up those they have political disagreement with, Kennedy said. Race-baiting is a scourge for working people, who need to be able to discuss and debate a way forward out of a crisis caused by the capitalist system the Democrats of all stripes defend.

Bosses everywhere are gearing up to “cut labor costs,” Jarrett said, because of increasing capitalist competition and because they sense our unions are weaker today. “The auto and airline bosses are talking openly about how much they plan to cut workers’ wages and living standards and undermine safety in upcoming contract negotiations.

Break with bosses’ two parties

“The SWP is running candidates across the country who are putting solidarity with the struggles of working people at the center of our campaigns,” he said. ”To strengthen those fights the party demands amnesty for all 11-plus million undocumented immigrants in this country, so the labor movement can build unity to fight the bosses.”

Jarrett will be speaking out on the need to fight for workers control over production and safety at a public hearing held by the Allegheny County Health Department in Clairton, Pennsylvania, July 30. U.S. Steel was cited for fouling the air and soil from its coke works there. The hearing is to debate a draft settlement between  steel bosses and the health department.

He will also campaign at a free dental clinic being held at the Pittsburgh hockey arena July 25-26, where thousands of working people, who find it hard to afford dental care for their families, are hoping to receive some otherwise unobtainable treatment.

“We say workers must have universal government-guaranteed health care they need,” Jarrett said. “The Democrats and Republicans only offer working people health insurance schemes — from Medicare-for–all to variants of Obamacare.”

“Workers and farmers showed what is possible in Cuba when they made a revolution in 1959. They showed how working people can transform their conditions as they transform themselves to reorder the priorities of society to provide for the vast majority of working people, not the tiny minority of profit takers,” he said. “We’ll be talking about that example when we campaign on the long lines everyone expects there.”

Next weekend Kennedy will join Joel Britton, SWP candidate for mayor of San Francisco, to campaign throughout Northern California. For more information about the SWP campaign nearest you, check the directory.

Arlene Rubinstein contributed to this article.