SWP launches 2023 campaign: Ilona Gersh for Chicago mayor

By Naomi Craine
December 12, 2022

CHICAGO — The Socialist Workers Party announced Nov. 29 that it is running Ilona Gersh, a lifelong fighter for the interests of the working class, for mayor of Chicago. Gersh is a bakery worker and member of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union Local 1.

She is challenging a crowded field of varied capitalist candidates in the so-called nonpartisan election, most of whom present themselves as “progressive” Democrats, including incumbent Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Congressman Jesús García.

“Working people need to break with the Democrats, Republicans, and all other capitalist parties,” Gersh told the Militant. “We need to build our own party, a labor party, based on our unions, that can organize to fight for our own class interests in face of the economic, social and moral crises of the capitalist system.

“We will use the campaign to build solidarity with labor struggles,” she added, including the fight rail workers are waging against both the bosses and the government for livable schedules, safer conditions and the right to strike; United Auto Workers on strike at Case New Holland in Racine, Wisconsin, who are planning a solidarity rally there Dec. 17 that the SWP campaign is building; and the strike by BCTGM members at Ingredion in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“Employment is a central question facing working people in Chicago and beyond,” Gersh said. “We need a union-led fight for jobs, with wages, hours and schedules that mean workers can be with their families and be politically active, rather than be torn apart by the bosses’ drive for profits.

“Workers shouldn’t have to hold down two or three jobs to make ends meet, nor be forced into dependency on welfare programs that create barriers to finding work. Our unions should fight for a basic income for all families, to make it possible to keep a job, be part of the working class and strengthen our solidarity and confidence in our own capacities.

“This course of union struggle is the opposite of the handout promoted by Lightfoot as a so-called universal basic income,” Gersh added. Earlier this year the city of Chicago selected 5,000 families by lottery to receive $500 per month for one year to see if that will reduce “poverty.”

“The labor movement needs to fight for a nationwide government-funded public works program, to create jobs and build and produce things that working people need,” the SWP candidate said. “Instead, city and state officials here are promoting marijuana dispensaries and ever more gambling casinos as ‘economic development.’ This will just drive more working people in the city and countryside alike into economic crisis and the scourge of drug, alcohol and gambling addiction.”

City officials have made a show of “welcoming” 3,600 asylum-seekers who have been bused here by the government in Texas, using it to score partisan points against the Republicans. “What’s needed is a fight for amnesty for all immigrants in the U.S.,” she said, “in order to strengthen the unity of the working class and our ability to organize, build unions and fight together.”

“To be able to carry out these struggles, working people need to defend constitutional freedoms that are under a concerted assault by the Democrats and the FBI today,” Gersh said.

Gersh and her campaign supporters will join in fights in the interests of working people worldwide, including against Moscow’s assault on the independence of the courageous Ukrainian people and the protests by workers and youth in Iran today.

The mayoral election is scheduled for Feb. 28. If no candidate receives a majority of votes, there will be a runoff  between the top two April 4. To find out more and get involved, contact the campaign office at 1858 W. Cermak Road, 2nd Floor, Chicago, IL 60608. Tel.: (312) 792-6160. Email: SWPChicago@fastmail.fm.