Socialist Workers Party candidates and their supporters have been joining strike picket lines and stepping up efforts in their unions and through their campaigns to build solidarity with these working-class battles. Using the Militant’s pro-labor coverage, they visit with workers on their doorsteps in cities, towns and in the countryside. They’re finding growing interest in learning about the party’s activities and political program.
Edwin Fruit, SWP candidate for Minneapolis City Council, and campaign supporters got in a discussion with Michael Pendergast in St. Paul after knocking on his door July 20. To try to make ends meet, Pendergast works two full-time jobs, one at a radio station and another as a music teacher.
Fruit described some of the labor battles today, the strike by thousands of dockworkers in Canada; Bakery union members in Memphis, Tennessee; Teamsters at the UPM Blandin paper mill in Grand Rapids, Minnesota; and the contract fight by 340,000 Teamsters union members at UPS.
“Striking is in the air,” Pendergast said. “It is serendipitous that you all came by right now, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how can I start a union at the radio station where I work. You know when the radio carries out those regular fund drives, the workers don’t get wage increases out of that. And there is a cap on what percentage of inflation the company will compensate us for.”
“What’s needed,” said Fruit, “is for the unions to lead the fight for cost-of-living escalator clauses in every contract, so whenever prices rise our wages and benefits go up automatically. And we need a sliding scale of hours — 30 hours work for 40 hours pay — to prevent layoffs when production slows.
“Out of these struggles, we can win the unions to break from the Democrats and Republicans — the bosses’ parties — and form their own political party, a labor party based on the unions.”
Pendergast signed up for an introductory subscription to the Militant and purchased The Low Point of Labor Resistance Is Behind Us: The Socialist Workers Party Looks Forward by SWP leaders Jack Barnes, Mary-Alice Waters and Steve Clark.
In New York, Seth Galinsky, SWP candidate for City Council, and party member Willie Cotton knocked on the door of Margie Perea in the Polo Grounds Towers in Harlem July 16. Perea is a health care worker and member of Service Employees International Union Local 1199. She has worked in both nursing homes and hospitals.
Cotton and Galinsky spoke about how the deepening capitalist economic crisis today makes it harder for young people to start and maintain a family, forcing many in their 20s and even 30s to keep living at home. “That’s like me!” Perea said. “My daughter is still living with me.”
She said she was concerned about the growing numbers of homeless and immigrant workers. “It’s not fair that all these immigrants get all kinds of government help, food and housing, but we have homeless right here in New York who aren’t getting the help they need.” She was referring to the latest wave of immigration to the U.S., which includes more than 50,000 who’ve been sent to New York over the past year. The city government has put them up free in shelters and provided meals, but few have been given work permits.
“One of the ways the capitalist class divides us is to try to get us to blame other workers for the problems we face,” Galinsky said. “The fact is the bosses want more immigrants here, to increase competition for jobs. But they prefer that these workers don’t have papers so they can pay them less and use that to push down everyone’s wages.”
“I’m not against immigrants, but something has to be done,” Perea said.
“We’re for amnesty for all immigrants who are in the U.S.,” Galinsky said. “The unions should say, whether you have papers or not, join the union, let’s fight together for better wages and conditions for all workers.”
Perea bought The Low Point of Labor Resistance Is Behind Us to learn more, and said she will show it around to her co-workers.
The SWP is running candidates all across the country. Join in campaigning with them! See the list of party campaign offices.