This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

American workers are hurting, and this presidential candidate wants to do something about it — even though she knows she will never occupy the Oval Office.

Alyson Kennedy, the presidential hopeful for the Social Workers Party, is crisscrossing Utah this week with her message that workers must organize if they want their share of the American pie.

"We are running in this election to build a workers' movement to deal with the crisis that has overcome them," she said Thursday. "There are very few unions, and that is a problem for workers."

She noted that such things as Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance weren't gained by workers without a fight.

Kennedy, 65, lives in Chicago. But she was a coal miner by trade and, in 2003, worked at Emery County's Co-Op Mine owned by the polygamous Kingston family. She was among the workers who went on strike and then were fired by the Kingstons. Ten months later, they were reinstated when the National Labor Relations Board found the miners were wrongly dismissed for union activity.

She now works at a Wal-Mart in Chicago and is part of the movement seeking a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Kennedy knows she will not win the presidential race — she touts modest hopes of being on the ballot in Utah and eight other states — but she defines victory by a different standard.

"We judge winning by the response we get when we go door to door," she said. "We get a good response. Working people are the only ones who can change things."

It's only a matter of time, Kennedy said, before workers join together in larger social struggles, like those surrounding the police shooting deaths of black Americans.

"We think those things will grow and become much bigger and broader," she said. "The way forward is for us to fight for our rights and to take political power and begin to reorganize this society."

Dale Cox, president of Utah's AFL-CIO, said he agrees with Kennedy's message, but noted that his union has endorsed presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

"Her heart is in the right place," he said. "Workers need to be more organized."

Among the challenges, Cox said, is that Americans are apathetic. "People need to vote for their paychecks, not for what's said on Fox News."

Rocky Anderson, a former Salt Lake City mayor and 2012 Justice Party presidential candidate, said what Kennedy is doing is "absolutely fantastic."

He agrees with her that neither the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party serves the interests of workers.

"The more we can generate discussions on subjects completely ignored by Republicans and Democrats," he said, "the better off we will be."

Anderson argued that the Republicans never have had concern for workers and that Democrats abandoned the working class in the early 1970s.

Anderson agrees with Kennedy that the nation needs a strong union movement, a fair tax structure, educational opportunities and a jobs program.

Unlike Bernie Saunders, the independent Vermont senator who challenged Clinton this season with a strong youth following and successful internet fundraising program, Kennedy said she will do things the old-fashioned way.

"The best way to get our message out is to talk to people of all ages," she said. "We're never going to build a workers network through the internet."

And unlike Sanders, she doesn't favor a single-payer health-care system. Rather, she wants health care like the Cuban system — where patients pay nothing out of pocket.

"The problem in this country is that medical care is for profit," she said. "As long as that is the case, it won't be good for workers."

She also advocates a jobs program like those seen during the Great Depression. Kennedy said that the nation's roads, bridges and water works are failing and that a federal jobs program would not only reduce unemployment but also rebuild the country.

None of that will occur, she added, if the workers don't make it happen.

comments powered by Disqus