BATH, Maine — Alyson Kennedy and Malcolm Jarrett, Socialist Workers Party candidates for president and vice president, joined striking shipbuilding workers on the picket lines at Bath Iron Works to bring solidarity to their strike, July 1-3.
“Workers everywhere need to support your fight,” Kennedy told striking members of Machinists Local S6. “By standing up to the bosses’ demand to undermine seniority and to use contract workers, you are setting an example for other workers across the country.”
“You can be sure that we will get out the word about your fight everywhere we go,” Jarrett added.
On July 2 Jarrett and Kennedy spoke at a house meeting in Boston, a couple hours south, where they reported on their visit to the picket lines and discussed the party’s platform and campaign plans. After attending the meeting, Sarah Bustin, a 19-year-old University of Massachusetts student in Lowell, joined the candidates the next day to go to the strikers’ pig roast.
“It was eye opening to hear about the strike, learn about issues the workers face and see them taking action to make real change,” Bustin said after the trip. She has begun telling other young people about the strike. In helping organize an anti-police brutality demonstration in the Boston area, Bustin is working with fellow protesters to raise money for the union’s strike fund.
Evelyn Sweet, 26, a worker in Albany, New York, who met SWP campaigners during protests there against police brutality, also joined in going to the strike. Sweet was impressed with the support strikers were receiving.
“Everyone who drove by honked their horns,” she said. “The fact that 87% of the workers voted against the contract shows how unified the workers are and the strength and power of the union.”
At the pig roast, welder Aaron Towle, who has worked at the shipyard for five years, told Kennedy, “This is my first strike.”
“I can refuse to do jobs if they are unsafe,” he said. “I had to call the union safety guy because the boss wanted me to weld while standing on a plywood board several stories high above the ground without proper protection. The bosses are always in a hurry.”
“You’re right, they don’t care about our safety,” Kennedy said. “My campaign supports building a labor party and fighting for workers control of production. A labor party would mobilize working people all over the country to support your strike.”
Strikers appreciate that Bath protesters against police brutality have joined the picket line in solidarity. “We are down with Black Lives Matter here,” Justin Johansen, a shipbuilder electrician for six years, told Jarrett.
“That’s great,” Jarrett said. “We need the unions to join the fight to demand that cops who commit brutality are prosecuted.”
Five strikers bought subscriptions to the Militant and 27 picked up single copies.
‘A party trying to do things’
“I was unaware of the many struggles that are going on today,” Amanda Plott, a 22-year-old worker at a Target warehouse, said after hearing Kennedy and Jarrett speak at a campaign forum in Albany. Plott described learning about the strikes of copper workers at Asarco and fruit packers in Washington state. “This is encouraging,” she said. Plott had met SWP campaigners at a recent protest against cop brutality.
“This is a party trying to do things on the ground, not just trying to get votes. I have never heard that from a party before,” she said.
“We need more of this,” Gregory Rose told Kennedy, when she described the shipyard strike to him as she campaigned at a Bath Walmart. “How working people are treated in the U.S., especially since COVID-19, is not right,” he added.
“Health care in the U.S. is for profit,” Kennedy said. “That is why Cuba is an example for workers. Cuban workers and farmers made a revolution and established health care as a right. They mobilized students and working people to go into the neighborhoods to find out who might have COVID to make sure they receive needed care.”
“As a communist country Cuba takes a different approach,” Rose said. He got a subscription to the Militant and a copy of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power.
Socialist Workers Party campaigners across the country encourage those they meet to join them in supporting labor battles, marching against police brutality, and campaigning among fellow workers on their doorsteps in cities, towns and rural areas.
Fight for jobs program
How to combat the impact of rising unemployment is a frequent question that comes up in these discussions. Maggie Trowe, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate from Kentucky, told Wayne Clarkson in Louisville’s Newburg neighborhood July 3, that the party urges a fight for a government-funded jobs program to put millions to work at union-scale wages. “That sounds good. But how do we get that?” Clarkson, a laid-off dental appliance worker, asked.
“We have to fight for it,” replied Trowe. “The way we have won things in the past — that’s how we can build a united movement today.”
Trowe showed him Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power. The book describes the leadership role of Black workers in social and political struggles in the U.S. and explains why the fight for a workers and farmers government opens the road to the fight to end all exploitation and oppression. Clarkson subscribed to the Militant and bought the book.
Janine Johnson subscribed at a July 5 picket line of striking nurses in Joliet, Illinois, saying she wanted to read about “other unions, standing up for their rights around the country and the world. We need to share our experiences.”
To get involved in the SWP campaign, contact the party campaign offices nearest you.
Jacquie Henderson in Louisville, Kentucky, Laura Anderson in Albany, New York, and Dan Fein in Chicago contributed to this article.