FARIBAULT, Minn. — Socialist Workers Party campaigners are knocking on doors and meeting working people in Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee and Washington to win support for the fight to get a working-class party on the ballot in 2020.
Thousands are signing petitions to get Alyson Kennedy, the SWP candidate for president, and Malcolm Jarrett for vice president on the ballot. Many are learning about the party’s platform, publications and activities.
The SWP says workers need to build their own party, a labor party, to organize millions of workers to fight in our own interests and in the interests of all the exploited and oppressed. It explains that as workers fight to wrest control of production from profit-hungry bosses, growing numbers can be won to replacing capitalist rule with a workers and farmers government.
The SWP’s ticket has already been certified for the ballot in Colorado and Vermont, and campaigners have met all the requirements to get on in Louisiana.
“The unions were important, but they’re pretty powerless now,” Mike Larson, a machinist, told Kennedy as he signed the petition outside a Walmart here. He liked Kennedy’s explanation that workers needed a labor party, but wasn’t confident it could be built.
“For decades officials have tied the unions to the Democratic Party, instead of organizing the ranks to fight in our own interests,” Kennedy said. “That paralyzed us.” A labor party that acts in the interests of all workers and seeks to unite us in struggle would find ready support from workers looking for ways to stand up to the bosses.
“We’re going to see bigger struggles by working people, and opportunities to organize,” Kennedy said. The party’s platform explains workers need a union in every workplace — to fight the bosses’ growing attacks on jobs, wages and working conditions.
Kennedy pointed to the importance of organizing solidarity with the 4,300 shipyard workers on strike in Bath, Maine, who are setting an example as they resist bosses’ attempts to replace union members with subcontractors at lower wages.
Outside the Walmart in Roseville, a suburb of Minneapolis, a special education assistant in a charter school, Madison Elkins, got a copy of the Militant. “There’s always a struggle for safety at work, but now you add a highly contagious disease,” she told Kennedy.
“Teachers and other school workers — working closely with parents — need to take control over organizing school safely,” Kennedy said. “That’s an example of what we mean by fighting for workers control of production.”
Kennedy described the response of Cuba’s revolutionary government to the spread of the virus. “At the beginning of the epidemic Cuba organized millions of home visits to make sure that everyone who had symptoms got treatment. The 1959 revolution brought to power a government of workers and farmers, a government they can trust, not like the government here, which represents big business.”
“Yes, here nobody trusts the government,” Elkins said.
In Roseville, Kennedy spoke with Stella Anderson, a janitor, who signed to put the SWP on the ballot. “I served three years in prison for a felony. When I got out it was hard to find a job,” Anderson said. “Now I’m fulltime, making $16.72 an hour. My boyfriend works at a gas station. But we can’t find an apartment because they require credit, so we spend all our income on paying for a hotel room.”
By the end of the weekend, 381 people had signed to get the party on the ballot in Minnesota, well on the way to the goal of 2,400 before Aug. 18. Five people signed up for subscriptions to the Militant, and four got books to learn more about the Socialist Workers Party and its program.
To join a campaigning team in Minnesota over the next two weeks, contact the Minneapolis campaign office at: (651) 340-5586, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Workers need a labor party
SEATTLE — Supporters of the Socialist Workers Party presidential ticket campaigning here have collected more than 2,000 signatures, well over the requirement to put the candidates on the ballot. They have spoken with hundreds of workers about the party’s action program to confront the economic and social crisis.
Alyson Kennedy will join supporters in the state capital in Olympia Aug. 7 to deliver the petitions, along with a number of letters, making clear the widespread support for the party’s democratic right to be on the ballot.
Mark Downs, a retired longshore worker and former member of the executive board of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 19 in Seattle sent a letter to the secretary of state urging him to put the party on the ballot. “The more choices there are on the ballot, the better,” he wrote.
During a tour stop here, Kennedy and supporters campaigned outside a Walmart near the Boeing jet plant in Renton. Boeing, the largest private employer in the Seattle area, has laid off thousands of workers since the start of the pandemic.
“The Socialist Workers Party calls for a federally funded jobs program to put millions to work building things we need, like hospitals and schools and fixing the infrastructure,” Kennedy told Subillie Sheldon, a retail worker who was recently laid off from his second job at the airport.
Sheldon was born and raised in the Marshall Islands and had friends from Bikini Atoll, the island where the U.S. rulers tested their nuclear bombs after World War II, exposing islanders to dangerously high levels of radiation. Bikini Atoll remains contaminated to this day.
“Both the Democrats and Republicans were responsible for that crime,” Kennedy said. “Workers need a labor party that would oppose Washington’s wars and lead millions to challenge the rule of the wealthy who run this country.”
When Kennedy knocked on her door, Maureen Carroll, who works at a mental health center, said she supported the protests against police killings but was against the violence of antifa and others attacking the federal building in Portland, Oregon.
“This is taking the focus away from the fight to change the cops,” Carroll said. “We need to defund the police and to use some of this money for mental health.”
Kennedy pointed to the need to fight for government-funded health care for all, including mental health. “But changing the nature of the police under capitalism isn’t possible,” she said. “The police are here to defend the ruling rich. They not only brutalize and kill people, but break strikes and other working-class struggles. This is not going to change so long as the wealthy are in power.”
Carroll signed to put her on the ballot.
‘Party’s right to be heard’
AND JACQUIE HENDERSON
KINGSPORT, Tenn. — “I believe anyone with a program has a right to be heard,” said retiree Donna Hardy, 72, who used to work at the gigantic Eastman Chemical plant here. She bought a subscription to the Militant, signed the SWP petition, and got a copy of Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes, saying she hopes “it helps me see that we’re not helpless.”
Campaigners met Hoyal Woodson, a retired contractor and rail worker, in Johnson City, where 90% of the population of 67,000 is Caucasian, and Donald Trump won the majority of the vote in 2016.
When campaigners outlined the party’s call to build a labor party, Woodson said, “It’s what’s needed.” He was happy to sign. His friend, James Short, a retired miner and United Mine Workers of America member, said, “Both of the parties are bad, but the Democrats are less bad.”
“What we need to do is break from both of the bosses’ parties,” said SWP campaigner Arlene Rubinstein, pointing out that both have a long record helping bosses break workers’ strikes and other struggles.
Across the street, this workers-correspondent met Lewis McCabe, a Walmart worker in Morristown. He is originally from Liberia and told us there is a large African community in Johnson City. “We are tired of voting lesser evil,” he said. “We want our voices to be heard.”
He got a subscription to the Militant and a copy of The Turn to Industry: Forging a Proletarian Party by Barnes. “Why don’t you come by the Alatua African Market this afternoon where you can meet some of my friends?” he suggested.
Half-a-dozen workers signed the SWP petition there. One bought a copy of Thomas Sankara’s We Are Heirs of the World’s Revolutions. Sankara headed a revolutionary government in Burkina Faso in the 1980s that led working people to change their conditions and resist imperialism’s plunder of their country.
“We keep working very hard but we don’t get even enough money to live on,” David Mackman said when he met SWP vice presidential candidate Malcolm Jarrett as he and Melinda Morales got off their shift at a gas station in Lebanon, July 31.
“We need a labor party that takes on the bosses’ parties and gives voice to our class,” Jarrett said.
Mackman and Morales signed to get the SWP’s ticket on the ballot. Mackman invited Jarrett to return later that day so he could introduce the SWP candidate to relatives and neighbors. Several of them also signed the petition.
Down the block Robert Henley, a Walmart worker, signed to put the party on the ballot. “We have been really busy at work,” he said. “I can see where things would be better if we had a say in safety measures on the job.”
“That’s true for all of us,” replied Jarrett. “I work as a cook. You know what dangerous things can happen when the pressure is on to go faster and faster. We have to stand together to defend ourselves, fight for safety on the job.”
Samir Hazboun and Karl Butts knocked on Clark Harris’ door in Lebanon. “I worked for 17 years in a chemical plant here,” Harris said. “We could tell the chemicals were hurting us but the company wouldn’t do anything. When I got sick and had to have liver surgery they let me go. We need to stand together and fight for safety.” He signed to get the SWP ticket on the ballot and to become an elector and bought a copy of the Militant.
LaRissa Braden, a counselor for children’s services in Memphis, invited Jarrett and Tricia Mack, his sister-in-law, to a get-together at Braden’s home.
Jarrett said the recent widespread protests against police brutality showed how much stronger the working class is as a result of the fight in the 1950s and ’60s that put an end to Jim Crow segregation.
“What you’re doing with your campaign is good, but isn’t socialism a form of repressive control?” Braden asked Jarrett.
“Working people are the only force capable of solving the economic, moral and social crisis we face,” Jarrett said. “The Cuban Revolution is an example of a socialist revolution where millions of workers and farmers took power and run the country in the interests of our class.”
“Yes, we’re the ones that make the country roll,” Braden said.
“You want to bring back unions,” Mack said. “That’s good.”
“Our party is a party of workers fighting to build unions and strengthen them. We support the Bath, Maine, shipyard workers strike,” Jarrett said. “We take part in resistance on the job at Walmart, in the rail unions and other places we work.”
Mack contributed $25 to the campaign and subscribed to the Militant.
In Bartlett, Kayla Bratcher, a college student and Chik-fil-A worker, told SWP campaigner Maggie Trowe that she’s “worried my aunt is going to get evicted.” Both Bratcher and her aunt work at the fast food restaurant and have been getting short hours. As a result, her aunt is behind on the rent. Bratcher agreed to be an elector and bought a subscription to the Militant, and Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power and Is Socialist Revolution in the US Possible?
New Jersey campaign nears goal of 1,200 signatures
UNION CITY, N.J. — Supporters of the SWP ticket are closing in on their goal of 1,200 signatures to place the party’s presidential candidates on the ballot in New Jersey. By Aug. 4 they had collected well over 900.
Jarrett joined campaigners in Jersey City where they met Talicia Jackson. She asked, “What is your position on health care?”
“Health care is a social right,” Jarrett said. “The Cuban Revolution shows the kind of health care system we can have when working people are in control.” In Cuba, with a population of 11.3 million, 87 people have died from coronavirus over the last several months. In contrast, in New York City, with a population of almost 8.4 million at least 23,000 have died.
After reading the section of the SWP platform about the alliance between workers and farmers, Jackson said, “A lot of Black farmers are losing land.”
“Yes, and Caucasian farmers as well,” Jarrett said. “While campaigning in Vermont I learned that 25 dairy farmers had lost their farms just since the shutdown.”
“Workers and farmers need to join together in struggle. We need to fight to stop the banks from foreclosing on farmers and taking their land. In Cuba after the revolution farmers won title to the land they worked.”
Jackson signed the petition and subscribed to the Militant.
When campaigner Joanne Kuniansky approached Alex Javier and two of his friends in Newark she said that workers needed to build a labor party, and to fight for a union in every workplace.
“Definitely! Unions have your back at work,” said Javier, a 22-year-old longshoreman and member of the International Longshoremen’s Association. All three signed up to put the SWP on the ballot.
Jacob Perasso contributed to this article.
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