All 1.5 million members of the Unite union were sent ballot papers this week to choose the union’s next general secretary.
The rank and file candidate is blacklisted former aerospace rep Jerry Hicks.
The other candidate is current general secretary Len McCluskey.
He’s been an appointed official for Unite and its predecessor unions for most of the past 30 years.
Jerry has a long record of leading militant strikes in his own workplace and in support of other workers.
“There’s an alternative to austerity,” he said.
“We needn’t pay a single penny for a crisis we didn’t cause.
“Unite is Britain’s biggest union. Its members can make the lights go out, make cities come to a stop. And it isn’t doing what it needs to.”
Socialist Worker backs Jerry because we share his vision of a fighting union.
But we also want to shift the balance inside the union and boost ordinary members in workplaces.
Building Jerry’s campaign can help do that.
McCluskey has a talent for making rousing, left wing speeches.
But many workers are frustrated with the lack of leadership from their officials.
“Most of the workers I spoke to at Billingsgate fish market didn’t even know there was an election on,” said Carl Taylor, a Unite member in east London.
“They were really glad to hear someone was standing for an alternative, and were sympathetic to Jerry.”
Unite member Paul Bolton has been leafleting bus garages in the West Midlands.
“A lot of drivers are really disillusioned with the union,” he said.
“If campaigning for a rank and file candidate gives them confidence to get more involved then that’s a step forward for all of Unite.”
Jerry has travelled across Britain talking to workers.
He says that the increasingly shrill negative campaigning against him from the McCluskey camp is starting to backfire.
“A worker at the BMW car plant in Oxford got in touch after looking me up online,” Jerry told Socialist Worker.
“He was sick of being constantly told who he had to vote for.
“So he put leaflets about at work, and has taken a day off to give them out at high street banks and bus stations.”
Jerry got a warm reception at the Arriva bus garage in Wood Green, north London, on Monday of this week.
“I’ll definitely be voting now I know there’s an election,” driver Duzgan told Socialist Worker.
“What Jerry is saying sounds good. The union needs to listen to drivers before making decisions that affect us.”
Drivers across London say the union is doing nothing about unequal pay, widespread bullying and increased sackings.
There’s also frustration in the NHS.
“In 2011 we had a successful local strike against redundancies, then a great turnout for the November pensions strike,” said speech therapist Steve Hack.
“There was such a feeling of unity. But by 2012 it was much harder to get people out the door.
“The union had been so half-hearted in pursuing the dispute that it confused people.”
But the victory of rank and file construction workers against an attack on their pay last year shows what can be done.
Jerry was the only non-construction worker they elected to represent them in negotiations.
For him they are the model for how the union should work.
“After that victory we should have had rank and file construction workers invited to speak at all the committees and meetings,” he said.
“That’s how to inspire people. I want to see rank and file organising in every sector.
“I’m not anti-official. I’m pro-democracy. And I want a union that’s accountable to its members.”
Get involved with the campaign to elect Jerry Hicks—go to jerryhicks4gs.org for information and campaigning materials