‘They try to hide the news about fights workers wage from us’

By Seth Galinsky
May 24, 2021
“My boss made me employee of the month,” Paul Stettler told Joanne Kuniansky, SWP candidate for New Jersey governor, on his doorstep May 6, “so I had to get this T-shirt.”
Militant/Terry Evans“My boss made me employee of the month,” Paul Stettler told Joanne Kuniansky, SWP candidate for New Jersey governor, on his doorstep May 6, “so I had to get this T-shirt.”

“I’ve been a union worker since I was 18,” Paul Stettler told Joanne Kuniansky, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New Jersey governor, when she and campaign supporter Terry Evans knocked on his door in Jersey City May 6. His uncle had been a staunch member of the United Auto Workers decades earlier. Stettler said that past union struggles won improved conditions for working people. 

When the retail store where he works “made me employee of the month I had to get this T-shirt,” Stettler said, pointing to the logo saying “non-employee of the month.” But Stettler said he is doubtful anything can be done to change the deteriorating conditions workers face today. 

Sub, sales, fund chart

“They keep the real history of struggles working people wage hidden from us because they want us to believe our class is incapable of joining together to fight for what we need,” Kuniansky said. “Everything the SWP presents is aimed at unifying workers to struggle against the bosses and break from the parties that support them.” 

She pointed to the importance of solidarity with fights going on today, including Steelworkers on strike at Allegheny Technologies Inc., United Mine Workers members on strike at Warrior Met Coal in Alabama, and Teamsters locked out by Marathon Petroleum in Minnesota. 

Stettler took a flyer to learn more about the campaign and got a copy of In Defense of the US Working Class by SWP leader Mary-Alice Waters. 

Socialist Workers Party candidates and campaigners are talking to working people on union picket lines, car caravans opposing the U.S. embargo against Cuba, and at their doorsteps in cities, towns and rural areas. They are getting a good response as they advance the nine-week international drive to sell 1,400 subscriptions to the Militant, 1,400 books by SWP leaders and other revolutionaries and to raise $145,000 for the Militant Fighting Fund. Those funds are crucial for meeting the paper’s operating expenses.

By the end of the second week of the drive working people had picked up 463 subscriptions and 519 books! Over $20,000 has already been sent in to the fund. 

Their interest reflects the increased thirst among many working people for discussing how to stand up to the bosses’ attacks, as more people get vaccinated and get back to work.

Truckers protest gov’t interference

SWP campaign supporters from Louisville, Kentucky, and Chicago went to Indianapolis May 1 at the invitation of truck drivers Harry and Chelly Menkhoff. A dozen truckers gathered there for a “slow-drive” protest, decorating their rigs with signs against PRO-Act legislation, shorthand for the Protecting the Right to Organize Act that is before Congress. They also were warning against the dangers of driverless trucks. 

Independent owner-operator trucker Jeremy Johnson picks up Teamster Rebellion, Teamster Politics and Militant subscription from Jacquie Henderson, right.
Militant/Kaitlin Estill Independent owner-operator trucker Jeremy Johnson picks up Teamster Rebellion, Teamster Politics and Militant subscription from Jacquie Henderson, right.

The Menkhoffs had met Maggie Trowe, SWP candidate for mayor of Louisville in 2019 when they drove their truck to Cumberland, Kentucky, to support coal miners blocking the railway tracks at the Blackjewel mine. The miners’ resolute action forced the company to pay back money it had clawed from their final paychecks after bosses declared bankruptcy. 

“We saw we had a lot in common with those miners,” Chelly Menkhoff told SWP campaigner Jacquie Henderson at the Indianapolis action. “We own this truck but it’s hard to make enough money to run it. Now it seems the PRO Act will have regulations that will make it even more difficult.” 

Democratic Party politicians and many labor officials are touting the proposed federal law as an advance for union rights. In fact the bill increases red tape and imposes reliance on government bureaucracy and compulsory arbitration, the opposite of organizing workers to fight the bosses by using union power. 

Trucker Jeremy Johnson told Henderson the “PRO Act is a real problem for truckers. The government is trying to regulate us off the road. They want to take all us independent contractors and call us employees.” Many truck drivers worry that one consequence will be many of them will be forced to sell their rigs. 

“It’s not right that the government will force all truckers to join a union,” said Johnson. 

Owner-operators are fellow workers

“The government dictating workers into unions undermines building a fighting union movement,” Henderson said. Workers, including independent owner-operators, have to be convinced that fighting for a union is in their own interests, she added.

She showed Johnson the four-volume Teamsters series written by Farrell Dobbs, a leader of the organizing drives that transformed the union across the Midwest in the 1930s. Dobbs was a four-time presidential candidate of the Socialist Workers Party. Henderson described how the union approached independent owner-operators as fellow workers with interests in common with other drivers. The union championed their demands against companies that leased them trucks. 

“When the companies attacked the income and working conditions of owner-operators, the Teamsters reached out to them and organized them into the union,” she said. 

“I’d like to know more about this,” said Johnson, purchasing Teamster Rebellion and Teamster Politics by Dobbs along with a subscription to the Militant. 

Other truckers at the action purchased two subscriptions, two books and four single copies of the Militant. 

Fight cop harassment

Sarah Katz and Brian Williams, supporters of Róger Calero, the SWP’s candidate for New York mayor, campaigned in the Middle Village neighborhood of the city May 9. 

“We noticed a sign in one window that said: ‘No police beyond this point, without a warrant,’” Williams said. 

“The person who lived there told us his relatives had been harassed by the police,” Williams told the Militant. “I told him the SWP joins fights against police brutality. At the same time, I said the trial of Derek Chauvin for killing George Floyd was a blow to that fight and to the labor movement, because the Minneapolis cop’s right to due process was violated.” 

“He agreed with that.”

“He told us, he doesn’t fit into a single category, because he defends abortion rights and is ‘conservative, gay, Hispanic and supports Donald Trump.’” He subscribed to the Militant, and bought the books Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? and The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record.

Socialist Workers Party candidates and campaigners joined actions across the U.S. and around the world in solidarity with the protests by workers, farmers and youth in Colombia (see article on front page). At the May 8 protest in Chicago, SWP campaigners sold four subscriptions to the Militant; three of the books on special, Cuba and the Coming American Revolution and Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power, and The Turn to Industry: Forging a Proletarian Party all by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes; and Puerto Rico: Independence Is a Necessity by Rafael Cancel Miranda. 

To help expand the readership of the Militant and books on revolutionary working-class politics, and to contribute to the Militant Fighting Fund see the directory for the distributor nearest you. Or visit themilitant.com to purchase a subscription and contribute online.