Published Thursday, October 25, 2012
By W. WINSTON SKINNER
Looking at the ballot, it would appear Republican Lynn Westmoreland is unopposed in his quest to be re-elected to Congress.
Westmoreland does, however, have an opponent, David Ferguson, who is running as a write-in candidate under the Socialist Workers Party banner. Ferguson, 57, lives in southeast Atlanta but makes regular treks to Coweta where he works at Yamaha Motor Manufacturing.
The major issue in the campaign is “the treatment that working class people are getting,” Ferguson said. He spoke of “the lack of jobs and low wages” as specific problems.
He said the working class is getting little attention in the current political climate. “They’re not getting it from either the Democratic or Republican party.”
He said the needs and rights of workers are largely ignored. Companies are “using more and more temporary workers to make even less secure jobs,” Ferguson said.
That tactic allows employers “to employ as many workers as possible at very low wages,” the candidate stated.
Someone is needed to “defend workers’ rights to organize unions,” Ferguson said. “I see having a revitalization of unions as vital.”
While the financial downtown of the past five years is what many people see as the time period when working Americans have been struggling, Ferguson said statistics show working people have seen a steady decline in real wages since the 1970s.
“The only way to reverse that is going to be political organizing of the working class,” he said. He said both Republicans and Democrats “represent the rich and their interests.”
Ferguson spent a day in Newnan campaigning recently. Rachele Fruit, who is the SWP’s congressional candidate for the fourth district, joined him to canvass and meet voters.
“We went to two housing areas in Newnan,” Ferguson said. At the area off Shenandoah Boulevard, “we went to both apartments and houses,” he said. They also visited in the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive area.
“We got a good response. People hadn’t heard of me very much,” Ferguson said.
Many of the people they met “were glad to see somebody else running” besides the incumbent, Ferguson said. “They hadn’t known they had a choice.”
Earlier this month, Ferguson attended a rally in Atlanta where James Harris, the SWP’s presidential candidate, spoke. Harris made a stop in Coweta County this summer.
Harris spoke about “the many struggles that are going on around the world,” Ferguson said, explaining that workers’ rights are an issue in many nations. “We see our politics as standing for the world. The problems are worldwide, and the solutions are going to have to be on a worldwide basis.”
Ferguson grew up as part of a farm family in eastern Kentucky. Televised reports of events in the outside world – the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights struggle – “got me to thinking and looking more critically at what the U.S. was doing,” he remembered.
He read widely as a youngster. Of his coming to see a different view of America, “a lot of it was on my own,” he said.
This year is Ferguson’s first time to run for office in Georgia. He ran for city council when he lived in Seattle, Wash. “I ran a few other times in other states,” he said.
All of his political efforts have been as a Socialist Workers Party candidate. “I’ve been involved with the SWP since I was 20,” he said.
He read about the Young Socialists Alliance while attending the University of Kentucky. “There was a political fight around school busing for desegregation – both in Boston, Mass., and in Louisville, Ky.,” he said.
Ferguson was involved in the pro-busing movement and met members of the Young Socialists Alliance who “were interested in doing the same thing.”
That connection proved transformational for Ferguson. “After some time, I decided I had much broader agreement,” he said. “A few years later when I went to West Virginia and worked in the coal mines – that’s when I decided to join the party.”
Ferguson is not just a candidate speaking up for working class citizens, he is a worker himself. “I’ve been working in factories for 30-something years now,” he said.
“I’ve gotten a lot more education outside the classroom than I ever did in it,” Ferguson reflected.
The SWP was founded in 1937 and has been running presidential candidates since the 1940s.