ST. PAUL, Minn. — In a little over two weeks, supporters of the Socialist Workers Party’s presidential ticket of Alyson Kennedy and Malcolm Jarrett collected 2,674 signatures, turning them in Aug. 18 to place the party on the ballot in Minnesota. This is well over the state requirement of 2,000.
Thousands of working people across the country have signed to back a working-class party’s campaign. The party’s ticket is on the ballot in Colorado, Louisiana, Tennessee and Vermont, and petitions have also been filed in Washington state.
The party is pressing the New Jersey state government to reverse its decision to deny it ballot status, even though the SWP turned in over 1,300 signatures — 500 more than required. The party’s candidate for Washington, D.C., delegate to the House of Representatives, Omari Musa, was certified for the ballot Aug. 18.
At a trailer park in Rochester, Minnesota, Doreen Dempsey, whose husband is a long-haul truck driver, told Jarrett that her husband “wanted to go to the truck drivers’ protest in Washington this spring but I wouldn’t let him because of the COVID.”
“When he got a run, sometimes he’d lose it because some broker would undercut the price,” she said. “One place he worked had a union, but they didn’t fight for the guys.”
“We need to begin to organize so we can develop confidence in ourselves and our co-workers,” Jarrett, who had participated in the truckers’ protest, said. “The Socialist Workers Party is for organizing a union movement in every workplace, for building a labor party, and fighting for workers control over production and safety.” He showed Dempsey the book Tribunes of the People and the Trade Unions.
Jarrett noted, “There’s a section about the organization of truckers by the fighting Teamsters union movement based in Minneapolis in the 1930s.” With courage, discipline and a battle plan, truckers were able to win a hard-fought strike for union recognition. Equipped with the right leadership, the book explains, unions can be transformed so workers, the unemployed and farmers can fight for political independence from those who exploit us.
Dempsey read the title. “I want that book,” she said. “Here’s $20. I’ll try out the paper too. Keep the rest as a contribution. And please do contact me.”
The next day in Minneapolis, when Jarrett knocked on Dawona Harper’s door and introduced himself and his party, she told him, “I don’t want to vote for either the Democrats or the Republicans, and I like the fact both your candidates are working class.”
Harper works as a child care assistant for Hennepin County and is a member of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 34. “I went to several of the protests around the police killing of George Floyd,” she said. “I was happy to see it become worldwide.”
Why workers need a labor party
“A fighting labor party would join and build even more powerful actions,” Jarrett said. “The fight against police brutality is in the interests of all working people.” Harper signed the petition and subscribed to the Militant.
In Minneapolis Aug. 14, Helena Shimizu told David Rosenfeld, the SWP candidate for U.S. Senate in Minnesota, that she was interested in how racism and police brutality could be stopped. She said she was sympathetic to those who engaged in looting, because nothing else seemed to get the attention of the government.
“I think the looting weakened the movement because working people don’t want to be involved with that,” Rosenfeld said. “And it gave an opening to the government and the cops to come back even harder.
“We agree with Malcolm X. Malcolm was for disciplined struggle, intelligent action — not for mindless destruction or reckless acts,” he said. “We need a movement organized in such a way to draw in the broadest layers of working people, a movement with the social power to force changes. ”
Shimizu signed the petition to put Kennedy and Jarrett on the ballot.
Campaign supporter Gabby Prosser collected more than 50 signatures from customers at the coffee shop where she works. She got help from one regular customer, a member of the carpenters union, after he took a petition. Next thing she knew, he was collecting signatures from patrons.
Fight for safety on the job
In a trailer park in Glencoe, SWP campaigner Harvey McArthur met an older Mexican worker who’s been coming up from Texas for the last 21 years to work in the Seneca Foods vegetable packing plant during the corn harvest. Recently there was an outbreak of COVID-19 at the plant. “He told me they work 12-hour shifts, seven days a week. This year they’ve been shorthanded and the bosses aren’t letting anyone take a day off,” McArthur said.
“I talked about the need to build a union movement in every workplace and fight for workers control over production, including over enforcement of safety,” McArthur said.
Angel Hernandez, another resident of the trailer park, who works in a cabinet factory, said he liked how the Socialist Workers campaign “gives us a push to organize more.”
McArthur and campaigner Kaitlin Estill pointed to how the Cuban Revolution shows that it’s possible for workers and farmers to organize and build a movement strong enough to take political power and begin to transform society. Hernandez said he was impressed with the Cuban government’s internationalist aid to working people elsewhere in the world, “in spite of being communist.”
It’s because of the socialist revolution that so many Cubans see themselves as part of the world and in a common struggle with other workers, McArthur said.
“Workers and farmers in Cuba are led to confront challenges such as the coronavirus,” he said. “No one is left on their own, and health care is a social right, the opposite of here where everything is for a profit.”
“I’m more than willing to listen to what you have to say,” Hernandez replied, and signed up for a subscription to the Militant.
Press covers SWP campaign
The McLeod County Chronicle, a weekly published in Glencoe, ran an interview with SWP presidential candidate Alyson Kennedy in its Aug. 12 edition. “Kennedy believes neither the Democrats or the Republicans are truly interested in the plight of the working class,” the paper said. “She believes in strong labor unions and a system where workers control production to have a stronger voice in their working conditions.”
During campaigning Aug. 17 in Albert Lea, home to a large Cargill Foods plant, Kennedy and Jarrett were interviewed by the Albert Lea Tribune.
“The only thing that betters the conditions of working people is when we stand up for our rights,” Kennedy told the paper.
“Jarrett,” the paper noted, “supports fighting for unions in every workplace.” He described the example set by the two-month strike of 4,300 shipbuilders in Bath, Maine. “Fights like that show the importance of unions,” he told the paper.
During the effort to put the party on the ballot campaigners sold 64 subscriptions to the Militant, nearly 250 single copies, and more than 50 books on revolutionary working-class politics.
SWP fights for ballot in New Jersey
In New Jersey, the state government had imposed lockdown orders that barred the SWP and others from knocking on doors to get on the ballot. In April, Gov. Philip Murphy told the press, “People should not be going door-to-door campaigning. Period.” The party demanded it be put on the ballot, saying it had been on the ballot there in every election since 1948. State officials rejected their demand, but didn’t tell the party until one week before the deadline.
Party supporters then organized to campaign and turned in 270 signatures July 27, the filing deadline, and completed their filing on Aug. 10 with a total of 1,300 signatures, well over the requirement. Despite this, the state government refused to place the SWP candidates on the ballot.
Those who support the working-class party’s right to be on the ballot are writing to Gov. Murphy demanding he place the SWP on the ballot.