As published in Socialist Alternative #1, Sep/Oct, 2013
At the end of August, the 30,000-strong Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Minnesota State Council endorsed Socialist Alternative candidate Ty Moore for Minneapolis City Council. Moore is running against five Democratic Party candidates for the open Ward 9 seat in a ranked choice election on November 5.
SEIU’s endorsement is unprecedented in recent U.S. history. No significant statewide labor union has endorsed an independent socialist candidate for decades, as far as we are aware. SEIU’s support underscores the momentum the Moore campaign is developing, now seen as a serious contender for the council seat.
“Ty Moore may have been the most impressive candidate we screened [in any of the city council races],” said Harrison Bullard, security officer and Vice President of SEIU Local 26. “Ty has long been a partner of SEIU, through his work with Occupy Homes and in collaboration with Minnesotans for a Fair Economy. He has marched with us in subzero temperatures and stood on the picket line in support of low-wage workers. He clearly doesn’t just talk the talk; instead, Ty takes action whenever he encounters injustice. Ty is for real – he’s about the people.”
Moore is calling for a moratorium on foreclosures, a $15/hour minimum wage, and an end to deportations and workplace repression of undocumented immigrants. Many of SEIU’s members are immigrants fighting low wages and racist abuses by employers, and the union has supported community campaigns against foreclosures, including Occupy Homes MN, which Moore helped lead.
SEIU is one of the largest unions in the country, with over two million members. Their endorsement stands out given the prevailing policy of labor leaders to support the Democratic Party and shun the idea of supporting or running independent workingclass candidates against the Republicans and Democrats.
Despite labor donating hundreds of millions of dollars and mobilizing tens of thousands of union members to campaign for the Democrats, once in power the Democratic Party has defended the interests of the richest 1% and attacked the interests and rights of working people.
Minneapolis, like most big urban centers, is completely controlled by the Democratic Party, yet social services are being cut, big corporations receive welfare and handouts, and the police are used to repress social movements and poor people. At the same time, the union movement faces an unprecedented crisis and wave after wave of attacks from big business.
This experience, along with the deepening anger and opposition to the Democrats and the entire political establishment, is beginning to open up cracks within the labor movement over its political strategy. A growing number of unions are coming out against Obamacare, with the Nevada state AFL-CIO officially doing so in August.
The decision of the SEIU Minnesota state council to support an independent working-class candidate, Ty Moore, against his Democratic opponents is a very welcome development that needs to be built on. Why isn’t the labor movement supporting – and running its own – independent working-class candidates for political office? If union resources – financial and human – were put behind such candidates instead of big-business politicians, there is no doubt that many could be elected across the country – most easily for local office, but also for state and federal positions. Some on the left, including many union leaders, argue that such a strategy is impractical. Many argue such an approach would mean losing influence over Democratic politicians and lead to an even more hostile climate for unions and workers generally. This could not be further from the truth. In reality, the current strategy of supporting the Democratic Party has been tried and tested and found to be impractical. The results have been a massive fall in union membership, declining living standards, and encroachments on our democratic rights.
We can only defend our interests and win concessions through determined struggle. Alongside building mass movements and workplace actions, we need to also organize and campaign for our interests in the electoral arena. Strong working-class challenges to corporate politicians will be far more effective in forcing the political establishment to provide reforms, as both corporate parties attempt to protect their electoral base. We are already seeing this play out, in a small way, through Ty Moore’s campaign, where his main Democratic opponent has increasingly tried to play up her pro-worker and left-wing credentials due to the pressure of the Moore campaign.
Win or lose, the Socialist Alternative campaign in Minneapolis – alongside our success in Seattle and campaign in Boston – have already demonstrated the massive new opening for socialist ideas to gain support in U.S. society, and for building a broader working-class challenge to the two parties of big business.