SEATTLE — Across Tennessee, New Jersey and Washington state, Socialist Workers Party campaigners are collecting signatures from working people who want to see a working-class party on the ballot in 2020. Through the fight for ballot status they’re winning support for the party’s ticket — Alyson Kennedy for president and Malcolm Jarrett for vice president — and they will be doing the same in Minnesota soon.
The party’s candidates are the only voice in 2020 explaining that workers need to build their own party, a labor party, that can defend the interests of all working people against the entire capitalist class and its government.
Kennedy and Jarrett have already been certified for the ballot in Colorado and Vermont, and have met all the requirements in Louisiana.
SWP candidates have run in every presidential election since 1948.
Supporters of the party’s ticket are going house to house in cities and towns large and small, asking working people to sign nominating petitions and help sign up others they know — their co-workers, friends and family.
They are collecting signatures in Walmart parking lots, at house meetings, and at protests against police brutality. Along the way they’re broadening knowledge about the party’s campaign platform, increasing the readership of the Militant newspaper and books by party leaders and other revolutionaries.
Here in Washington, campaigners plan to file their petitions to the state election commission by Aug. 7, with hundreds more than the 1,000 signatures required.
Kennedy met laid-off library storyteller Xiomara Bugarin at her home in West Seattle July 26. The candidate talked about the different class responses of the Cuban and the U.S. governments to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I know the Cubans send doctors all around the world,” said Bugarin, who was born in El Salvador. “It impresses me that they do this despite the U.S. blockade.” The Cuban government mobilized the population to keep the virus in check, Kennedy said. “They are only able to do this because they had made a revolution in 1959.”
Bugarin signed the petition saying, “Working people need more options in the elections.”
UPS worker Danel Griffin told Kennedy when she was campaigning in a Walmart parking lot that he had been considering voting for Jesse Ventura for president on the Green Party ticket.
“The Green Party is a capitalist party of reform,” Kennedy said, “but it’s still a capitalist party.” In 2001 when Ventura was governor of Minnesota, he brought in the National Guard and hired scabs in an attempt to break a strike by government workers. “A labor party would organize solidarity with strikes and the fight against police brutality,” Kennedy said.
Griffin signed the petition and got a subscription to the Militant and a copy of the book, The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record: Why Washington Fears Working People.
Kennedy also spoke with Jaleel Harris, who is starting a job as a baggage handler at the airport. Harris recently got involved in the fight against police brutality. “I think the violence and looting hurts our cause,” Harris told Kennedy. “I support defunding of the police to reallocate money for resources like schools for the Black and Latino communities.”
Kennedy agreed about the looting. “But ‘defunding’ will not change the nature of the cops under capitalism,” she said. “Their role is to defend the wealthy ruling class and put working people in their place.
“Only working people taking political power into their own hands can change that,” Kennedy added. “In Cuba working people did make a socialist revolution. That’s what is needed in the U.S.”
Harris signed the petition and got a subscription to the Militant and a copy of Are They Rich Because They’re Smart?”
Rolly Konae told Kennedy about the intense speedup he has faced delivering packages for Amazon. “Before the pandemic we had to do 120 to 130 a day. Now it is 185 to 190.”
Kennedy, who is a cashier at Walmart, described how Walmart workers in Kentucky who work in online grocery pickup told her they organized to go together to speak to bosses who were trying to double the amount of orders workers had to pick in a day. After some back and forth bosses agreed to send more workers to help. “We need to act like we have a union,” Kennedy said.
‘We need more unity among workers’
CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee — “The Democrats and Republicans, which are so much the same, have grown so dominant, so in control,” Jimmy Smartt, an auto technician here in eastern Chattanooga, told SWP campaigners. Smartt and his wife Heather invited this correspondent and Rachele Fruit, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate in Georgia, into their apartment when we told them we were campaigning to put a working-class ticket on the ballot.
They were interested in the SWP platform that calls for building a labor party.
“We need to look to each other more, not to those in power,” said Jimmy Smartt. “We need more unity among the workers at the bottom.”
Some 91 people had signed in Tennessee to put the ticket on the ballot as of July 27. Campaigners plan to collect at least double the 275 state requirement.
The Smartts signed the petition, subscribed to the Militant and bought Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? “The answer is ‘No!’” Jimmy Smartt said. “That’s what I tell people all the time!” He agreed to be one of the 11 electors needed to get on the ballot.
Kirstin Griffin in Cleveland, Tennessee, first met SWP campaigners in May at a protest in Brunswick, Georgia, to demand the arrest and prosecution of the vigilantes who killed Ahmaud Arbery.
The 22-year-old nursing student signed up to be an elector for the SWP campaign July 24. She told party campaigners Janice Lynn and Sam Manuel she wants to learn more about the Cuban Revolution, which made it possible to have universal, government-guaranteed cradle-to-grave health care for all, as opposed to what passes as health care in the U.S. Griffin got a subscription to the Militant and purchased Red Zone: Cuba and the Battle Against Ebola in West Africa. She was glad to see a Militant article about nurses on strike in Illinois to win safer staffing levels and a pay raise.
At Griffin’s invitation, the campaigners participated in a protest that evening calling for the moving of a statue honoring confederate soldiers to a museum. Several protesters signed up to put the SWP candidates on the ballot.
In Lebanon, 20 minutes outside of Nashville, SWP campaigners Kaitlin Estill and Lisa Potash met retired army veterans Charles Bailey and Reginald Sweatt. Estill told them that under capitalism, society is organized to meet the needs of the capitalist class, not the needs of working people.
“You’re right,” Bailey said. “There’s potato farmers right now that are digging holes to throw their potatoes in and hog farmers killing the animals they can’t sell. All the while, meat prices are going up.”
The Socialist Workers Party campaign platform demands that the government guarantee farmers their costs of production, including their living expenses. Sweatt and Bailey signed the petition.
The SWP campaigners also met Devontta Shields at his doorstep. He told them he quit his job at a local factory that makes Kool-Aid because he’d come home each night covered in the Kool-Aid powder. Workers need to wage a fight to wrest control of production from the bosses, Estill said, so they can organize work safely.
Shields recently went to his first-ever protest against police brutality. After seeing news on these protests “I decided I was going to go to one and then it turned out there was one in my hometown,” he said. Shields signed to put Kennedy and Jarrett on the ballot.
‘Let me sign that!’
TRENTON, New Jersey — Lea Sherman, the SWP’s candidate for U.S. Senate, and vice presidential candidate Malcolm Jarrett filed 270 signatures with state election officials July 27 to get the party’s presidential ticket on the ballot.
“This shows we have support among working people in New Jersey,” Sherman said. The party plans to keep campaigning and get well over the required 800 signatures. “We invite all those who want to see a workers party on the ballot to join us in exceeding the requirements over the next couple of weeks and turning those signatures in.”
Donna Barber, elections manager for the New Jersey Division of Elections, told Sherman to call and inform her when they’ll be bringing the rest of the signatures in.
“Let me sign that. We need a voice,” retired nurse Diane Popeck told SWP campaigner Chris Hoeppner July 26. She is one of the 270 people whose signatures were filed July 27. Popeck told Hoeppner she was fired once when she needed to extend her maternity leave, but fought and won her job back. When her husband got injured on the job at UPS, and wasn’t treated right, “I convinced him to fight. You fight until they give up,” she said. She subscribed to the Militant and bought three books to learn more about the party.
Sherman met retired postal worker Don Hill on his doorstep in Paterson the day before. “With many businesses reopening, the companies are organizing to restore their profits at the expense of working people,” Sherman told him. “We need to fight for workers control on the job to protect our health and safety.”
Hill told Sherman he had visited Cuba several times and that “the whole world should emulate the Cuban example” of sending volunteer doctors around the world. “Washington tries to blaspheme the Cuban Revolution. But the record speaks for itself.” He signed the petition and subscribed to the Militant.
SWP campaigner Laura Anderson told Robert Davis in Elizabeth about her visit to join the picket line of striking shipbuilders in Bath, Maine. “More experienced union members said they didn’t know what to expect from the young ones” on the picket line, Anderson said. “But these young workers are the most enthusiastic about defending the union they only recently joined.”
Davis, a young gas station worker, really liked that. “There is a lot of injustice. It’s not right,” he said. Davis told Anderson he supports the protests against police brutality. “But this looting is no good. They are destroying our own community. It has to stop.”
Davis subscribed to the Militant and said he would like to help out on the campaign.
Joanne Kuniansky contributed to this article.