MINNEAPOLIS — During the first week of the drive to get the Socialist Workers Party’s ticket of Gabrielle Prosser for Minnesota governor and Kevin Dwire for lieutenant governor on the ballot, supporters of the SWP from across the country have talked to thousands of working people on doorsteps in working-class neighborhoods, at plant gates, at transit stops and in shopping center parking lots.
Minnesota election law requires parties that don’t already have ballot status to collect over 2,000 signatures within a tight May 17-31 window.
As of May 24, 1,633 people have signed to help put the party’s ticket on the ballot, 53 got subscriptions to the Militant and 29 are now reading Pathfinder books on the revolutionary lessons of working-class struggles.
“We are going to the hilt to bring the SWP program broadly to the exploited classes in Minnesota. This is a national effort to get on the ballot,” Dave Prince, a member of the party’s National Committee, told those at a special Militant Labor Forum here May 19. “Workers are interested in the party’s program and the class questions we pose.”
In June and early July there will be another national effort, organized in Philadelphia to put Chris Hoeppner, SWP candidate for U.S. Congress in the 3rd C.D., on the ballot there.
David Rosenfeld, the SWP congressional candidate from the Minneapolis area, described the party’s plans to introduce workers and farmers to the program and activity of the Socialist Workers Party and reknit ties with union fighters in the Red River Valley, Austin, the Iron Range and other cities, small towns and farming areas. Nearly $1,400 was raised toward this effort.
Among those Prosser met while campaigning at a local shopping center was Nicholas Mckusik, a fencing worker. “I’m making $20 an hour. That’s not bad money, but with inflation it’s just not enough,” he said. McKusik explained he was conservative and voted Republican in the last election. “When Republicans were running things, we didn’t have all this inflation.”
Prosser said the Socialist Workers Party pushes for the labor movement to fight for cost-of-living escalator clauses in union contracts, pension plans and all social benefits, along with a shorter workweek with no cut in pay to create jobs.
“Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans ever have working-class interests in mind, because they govern for the benefit of the superrich families who own the big banks and corporations and most of the land in this country. Working people need to break with the two capitalist parties and build an independent labor party based on a fighting union movement,” she said. Mckusik signed the SWP petition and bought a subscription to the Militant.
Fighting to defend workers, farmers
The rising cost of living and deteriorating conditions facing working people was on the minds of many that the socialist campaigners met. “People have left the workforce. It’s not that people are lazy. I cringe every time I hear that,” Micky Neuffer, who works at a casino, told party supporter Mindy Brudno. “Seniors who’ve retired over the last two years have had to go back to work at low wages just to make it.” Neuffer said young people are in the same situation, because jobs at low wages are oftentimes the only thing they can get, and “you can’t pay rent on those wages.”
One campaign team visited the Red River Valley in the western part of the state where an important union battle took place in 2011-12 when American Crystal Sugar bosses locked out their workers. “I read about the lockout of your union in the Militant. The bosses locked you out for almost two years, right?” SWP member Samir Hazboun asked Vernon Lebby, a member of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, outside the American Crystal Sugar plant in Grand Forks.
“Twenty-two months,” Lebby said, explaining the lessons he learned during that fight and how he got a feel for what other workers were going through. “I started working at an Amazon warehouse during the lockout. At first it wasn’t that bad of a job but over time they started speeding things up and pushing for more and more,” he said.
Lebby said he’s encouraged that Amazon workers are fighting for a union now. He signed to get the SWP on the ballot, bought a Militant subscription and got a copy of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by SWP National Secretary Jack Barnes.
Campaigning in a working-class apartment complex near the Twin Cities airport, Prosser knocked at the door of Krista Kleinboehl, who works from home doing customer service and sales. She responded enthusiastically when Prosser explained she was running against both the Democratic and Republican parties’ candidates and putting forward a program to advance the interests of the working class.
“What’s your opinion about abortion?” Kleinboehl asked and went on to explain, “I personally wouldn’t do it, but I think women must be able to make that choice for themselves.”
Prosser responded, “The fight for the right to abortion is only part of the fight for reproductive rights and family planning, which is in turn only one facet of the fight for the emancipation of women. And the fight for women’s emancipation is totally bound up with the fight to strengthen working-class families, an important refuge workers have in this crisis-ridden capitalist system.
“Working people need to organize and fight for a significant increase in the minimum wage, for universal health care from cradle to grave, for affordable child care and elder care, for job training and jobs, for elimination of the obstacles to adoption,” she said, “and in that framework for reproductive rights and family planning, including abortion.”
“You’re right,” said Kleinboehl. “The truth is we need to change the entire system from top to bottom.”
“That’s exactly what we’re campaigning for, to organize workers and our allies to do just that,” said Prosser. Kleinboehl signed the SWP petition.
The campaign has been getting press coverage. The Globe in Worthington interviewed Prosser May 24. “Ensuring the solidarity of the working class, fighting for jobs, and protecting against inflation are a few of the SWP’s priorities,” Globe reporter Emma McNamee wrote.
Anyone who would like to help get Socialist Workers Party candidates on the ballot can contact supporters of the SWP listed in the directory. The drive to get the party on the ballot in Philadelphia begins June 17.