Alyson Kennedy, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president, issued the following statement July 15. Malcolm Jarrett is the party’s candidate for vice president.
A fight by workers and our unions to wrest control of production and safety from the bosses is more sharply posed today as they press to pack more of us into plants shoulder to shoulder and crank up the line speeds. They’re driven by the need to beat out their capitalist competition and boost profits. But no worker has to die because of unsafe or unhealthy working conditions! The answer isn’t to shut the plants down, but for workers and our unions to take over control of all aspects of production and reorganize them to meet our needs!
Hundreds of workers became ill from coronavirus in June and July and four died at just two plants in the Los Angeles area — at the Los Angeles Apparel garment shop and Farmer John packinghouse. Similar high — and sometimes deadly — infection rates have struck other meat plants across the country. Long before the virus hit, profit-driven bosses organized production at the expense of workers’ lives and limbs.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who ordered COVID-19 patients to be shuffled into nursing homes, fueled the spread of the disease among the elderly, ensuring the deaths of thousands. Almost half of all coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are in nursing homes, over 80% in some states like New Hampshire!
The only way to change the conditions imposed by the bosses and their government is to rely on the power working people have in their millions. Strikes by shipbuilding workers in Maine, and shop floor skirmishes everywhere over wages and working conditions, point toward what is possible.
A fight by workers and our unions to take control of production would open the door to us setting the line speed, reorganizing conditions on the shop floor, easing off the backbreaking pace of production and taking whatever measures are necessary to defend life and limb. And it shows the possibilities for workers to control all aspects of production, to protect ourselves, those who use the products we make, the environment and communities near where we work.
Only by workers taking control of production out of the bosses’ hands can we make decisions based on what workers need, not what generates profit. As we do so we learn about our own capacities and see more clearly the need for our class and its allies to take command of the entire economy.
To carry out such a fight workers need our own party, a labor party, that builds support for every struggle by workers. By defending those most exploited and oppressed by capital this would strengthen the unity of the working class.
Organizing solidarity with the strike of shipbuilders in Bath, Maine; mobilizing working people to join families fighting for the prosecution of cops who killed their loved ones; and other working-class struggles point in this direction. A labor party would champion the fight for a government-financed public works program to create jobs, and to fight for an amnesty for the millions of undocumented workers in the U.S. who the bosses superexploit to drive down wages and conditions of all.
The capitalist rulers are capable of any amount of brutality to protect their profits and power — that’s what their cops, courts and barbaric death penalty “serve and protect.” But by challenging their Democratic and Republican parties and the rapacious class rule they protect, it is possible for working people to overturn capitalist rule and replace it with a workers and farmers government.
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