Labor Party convention

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Jun 11 13:32:56 MDT 1996

Date: Tue, 11 Jun 1996 07:56:18 -0700
From: "Andrew J. English" <aenglish%CRL.COM at CUVMB.CC.COLUMBIA.EDU>
Reply-To: COC-L - Committees of Correspondence List
To: Multiple recipients of list COC-L <COC-L at CMSA.BERKELEY.EDU>
Subject: Re: Labor Party convention from Earl Silbar(fwd)

I strongly disagree with Silbar's one-sided account of the convention.
There were 9 international unions and over 300 labor bodies represented
and 36 chapters.  Except for the abortion debate (where a substantial
number of the unions voted on both sides on a difficult issue, more on
that below), and the electoral action debate (where the ILWU was the only
significant union force on the side of running candidates right now)
all of the union delegates were strongly united with a large portion of
the chapter delegates in approving the main decisions of the convention.
Many of the union delegates are also chapter leaders, but they chose to
come as union delegates because they got more votes that way.  There
were also many socialists among the majority forces.  What Irwin doesn't
understand is that this is a LABOR party, not another tiny leftist
third party.  People representing thousands of union members have the
right to
more votes than people representing a 20 or 30 member chapter. It was
obvious to everybody there that a few of the chapter delegations had been
captured by ultraleft sectarians that were trying to obstruct the work of
the convention by proposing endless silly amendments.  If anything, the
chairpersons should have clamped down on them sooner.  The sectarians
tried to get votes by demogogically pitting the chapters against the
labor unions.  On a per person basis they had at most a quarter of the
1300 people there. On a voting strength basis they were much weaker.

As a chapter delegate from Arizona, I had 3/5 of a vote.  My friend,
who was a Teamster delegate from Local 104, had 16 votes.  To my mind
that was entirely fair.  I'm part of a 70 member chapter, he was
representing 7000 workers.

On the electoral debate: the debate was not between running candidates
and not running candidates.  It was between building a mass LABOR party
first, through publicizing our program and through actions in the streets
so we can then run candidates in the near future that can win vs. running
token propagandistic campaigns for the purpose of making certain leftists
feel good.  We don't want another pathetic losing third party, we want a
winning First party.  The convention voted to have the national council
establish a committee to plan our electoral strategy and report to the
next convention in two years.  We are building for the long haul.
We need to get a lot bigger and get a lot more unions involved before
we take the step of running campaigns. We represent one million workers,
but there are 16 million in the organized labor movement.

On the abortion question.  The vast majority of people on both sides
were strongly in favor of the right to choose.  Many women delegates
spoke against the motion that wanted insert the word abortion into the
text of the platform.  The platform that was approved calls for "informed
choice and unimpeded access to a full range of family planning and
reproductive services for men and women".  So under our platform abortion
would be free!  The only thing is that the platform does not mention
the word.  And that was done to preserve unity with the many working
people have have religious objections.  Including the mostly Mexican
immigrant delegates from the Farm Labor Organizing Committee who would
have walked if we called explicitly for abortion. This was compromise
language that FLOC and feminists both worked out.  It is in the section
on health care.  The section on opposing bigotry is strongly worded
against discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity, disability,
national origin, immigrant status, national origin, creed, sexual
orientation,or native language.  It is for affirmative action.
The constitution calls for a national council that is diverse and takes
specific measures to ensure it.  This is the most progressive set of
documents to come out of a cross-section of the labor movement representing
over one million workers.

If you aren't happy with the decisions, you'll have a chance to change
them at the next convention, assuming you can find support for your ideas
among some large body of workers.  If all you can do is whine about how
tiny groups weren't given more votes compared to huge organizations, then
by all means go off and form your own tiny leftist organization. Then the
rest of us can go own and do the historic work of building the Labor Party.

-Andy English
Labor Party of Arizona, convention delegate

insert below: comment I made on socnet:

>From socnet-approval at europe.std.comTue Jun 11 07:04:27 1996
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 1996 20:56:35 -0400 (EDT)
From: socnet-approval at
Reply to: socnet at
To: socnet-outgoing at
Subject: Re: LPA Convention news?

Date: Mon, 10 Jun 1996 14:17:02 -0700 (PDT)
From: "Andrew J. English" <aenglish at>
To: socnet at
Subject: Re: LPA Convention news?
In-Reply-To: <199606100405.AAA20904 at>
Message-Id: <Pine.SUN.3.91.960610133452.20939A-100000 at>
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: TEXT/PLAIN; charset=US-ASCII

I just returned from the Labor Party convention.  The party was
officially launched.  There were over 1300 delegates representing
9 international unions (newest addition: United Mine Workers),
over 300 local union bodies, and 36 Labor party chapters. Delegates
represented 44 states.

We officially adopted a party constitution, a plan for an interim
national council, a very radical political platform, and a proposal
to concentrate the next two years on building the party's organization
and organizing mass protests around labor issues.  The convention
decided to not endorse or run candidates during the next two years,
but to form a committee to come up with a plan for developing independent
labor party electoral campaigns which will report to the next convention
in 1998.  The party will also launch an official labor party newspaper.
We also endorsed the call for a national labor march on Detroit in
support of the newspaper strikers. OCAW president Bob Wages announced that
he would circulate a letter to other international union
presidents for their signature to ask Sweeney to back the proposed march.

The keynote speech was given by Bob Wages.  Jim Hightower, Jerry Brown,
and Farm Labor Organizing Committee president Baldemar Velasquez also
addressed the convention.  Ralph Nader spoke from the floor and solidarized
with the convention. Also the president of the Cleveland AFL-CIO spoke.

Representatives of the Detroit strikers, the Trailmobile strikers, and
three striking or locked-out OCAW locals also addressed the convention.
About $6600 in strike donations was collected.

The day the convention opened, the mayor of Cleveland, Mike White (a democrat
elected with labor support) called for taking away public workers collective
bargaining rights.  In response, the 1300-plus convention delegates, together
with the local labor community demonstrated in front of city hall, taking
over the entire street and blocking traffic. The city hall was a block away
>from the convention.  After being told that Mayor White was in a meeting at
the Marriott Hotel, the demonstrators marched through the street to the
hotel which was two blocks away from city hall, and occupied the hotel lobby
for an hour.  We later found out White was really at a different hotel, but
thats okay, since Marriot is an anti-union outfit anyway.

The structure adopted by the convention provides for the direct affiliation
and representation of labor organizations and of state and local party
organizations composed of individuals and of pro-worker organizations that
wish to affiliate.  Any individual who accepts the party constitution
is eligible to join.  Dues are $20 per year ($10 for workers making less
than $10 per hour, no dues requirement for striking or locked-out workers).

I'll post the party platform later (my copy has amendments scribbed all
over it).  All the decisions of the conventions were passed by a large
majority.  Delegates cast weighted votes based on the number of people
they represented.  A small minority of ultralefts tried to attach endless
silly amendments, but were defeated soundly.  The delegates did approve
a lot of well-founded amendments offered by sensible delegates.

For now let me just say the first point in the party platform is a call for
a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to a job with a minimum
wage of $10 per hour indexed to inflation.  We also called for a 32 hour
workweek.  Strong statements against bigotry and for ending discrimination
and defending affirmative action were also approved.

There were many socialists who are militant trade unionists in the leadership
of the convention.  There were also many workers in the process of
radicalization present.  A history of the working class's struggle to
form an independent labor-based party was included in the delegate packets.
Socialist hero Eugene V. Debs was one of the many leaders honored, with a
large section on him.

Deb's dream of a mass labor party (something he worked for during the
last several years of his life) is now being realized.

-Andrew English
Labor Party of Arizona

On Mon, 10 Jun 1996 socnet-approval at wrote:

> Date: Sat, 8 Jun 1996 14:40:22 -0400
> From: gx618 at cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Deran Ludd)
> To: socnet at
> Subject: LPA Convention news?
> Reply-To: gx618 at cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Deran Ludd)
> Greetings,
> Anyone out there have any word on what's going on at the LPA
> convention? I understand there is some move a foot to put offforming the
> Labor poff forming the Labor party? Any discussion of Nader's semi-
> candidacy?
> Deran

On Mon, 10 Jun 1996, Nathan Newman wrote:

> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> Date: Mon, 10 Jun 96 16:36:00 CDT
> From: silbar-tfaculty at
> Hi! here're a few impressions and thoughts on the Labor Party convention
> in Cleveland (the short version = 10 words): There'll be no action to
> upset the AFL and political business as usual- read on for more.
> OCAW, UE & Co. had the votes (weighted)ca. 1,600:800 and the people -
> maybe 50-60% of the supposed 1,400 present.
> They made a few concessions but got: 1. No LP elections or endorsements
> for (at least) the next 2 years.
> 2. A program that speaks to environmental, discriminatin and women's
> issues without mentioning abortion ( the longest debate at 2 hours) but
> which does endorse affirmative action. The program has no overview and
> calls for higher taxation of the rich without specifics; it avoids any
> mention of nationalizing zip.
> 3. A National Council with no elected members (except 1 vote to be split
> among 5 possible chapter reps). The only real power will reside with the
> endorsing internationals and groups they designate as "worker-friendly".
> Besides abortion, the only major fight was about chapters ability to run
> candidates under LP program with only local resources. This only cam3
> about when an ILWU (Longshoremen) resolution was ruled down on the chair's
> questionable rule that a voice vote was against it. OCAW's Wages called an
> early lunch break to work out a deal. In the ILWU caucus, the 20 or so
> people there (without their Int'l Pres.-a way at negotiations-) pressed
> the debate or threatened to walk out. This got approval to suspend the
> rules for an hour's debate.
> Mazzochi pointed out that the sponsoring unions had put up the money for
> the convention and "couldn't" back a group that endorsed candidates
> because it would eat up great resources just to comply with various laws.
> In passing, he indirectly acknowledged the falseness of his earlier
> statements that we legally couldn't run candidates at all.
> Frank Rosen (?) of the UE spoke against, saying that we didn't have the
> experience and (he or some UE person) said that we couldn't act without or
> against the wishes of the Internationals. Nothing was really said on
> either side about the political deal between this group and the rest of
> the AFL, "We won't criticize you and you don't criticize us" (Don't ask;
> don't tell).
> Carl Finnamore (ex-SA?) argued that workers' power comes from the streets
> (we endorsed a call for a national march on Detroit to support the
> strikers there), not elections.
> I got to speak and agreed with Carl about our main power, asked the
> delegates who'd ever done electoral work to raise their hands (well over
> 1/2 did) and asked them not to deny us a weapon for fighting with. While
> this was very well received, we lost the vote and the wind went out of the
> sails of the chapter left.
> Friday we adjourned early to march to City Hall to protest Cleveland Mayor
> White's plan to privatize public workers' jobs. Turns out he's black,
> workingclass and a (former?) union supporter, elected with big union
> support. While Wages and other union leaders denounced him, the lack of an
> alternative practically cried out. Many of us stayed in the street (with
> no cop intrusion, perhaps/certainly because they'd been working for a year
> without a contract?),
> We were told that the mayor was in a nearby hotel, so some of us began
> chanting to go there, about 10 minutes later, the main body began to
> desert the demo and headed there!
> We went right into the lobby, where we filled it up, chanting "Union, We
> are...Union", Labor Party", can't remember the others. We were angry,
> stirred up and very, very loud. No speeches, it would have been great with
> a bullhorn for 1 minute talks. Many women, some local firemen, also w/o a
> contract I think.
> Just as we were ready to disperse, someone announced that White was seen
> running down a hallway. About 100 of us moved quickly, only to see
> security guards set up a line behind a door. Just as the crowd was about
> to turn back, someone I know well and his friend took the initiative to
> open the door and push past the guards. The crowd followed, but, alas, no
> mayor in sight.
> The demo illustrated the militant character of many/most delegates and
> willingness of 100s to take action. Also the political bankruptcy of the
> leaderships' line. It certainly energized many of us and highlighted the
> unity intertwined with the real differences.
> A note on process: the majority had an overwhelming vote advantage because
> sponsoring internationals got 100 votes @ in addition to the votes
> endorsing locals got based on membership. Most votes were voice, and the
> chair almost always ruled with the OCAW/UE majority bloc, even where
> questionable or pretty clearly against (several). Still, they did allow
> real debate, most likely because it cost them nothing except some
> impatience by their own people.
> I think that many of "their" delegates understood their line (not too
> difficult- don't draw too sharp a line, don't step on the Internationals'
> political toes, ignore the AFL endorsement of Clinton (never even
> mentioned except by Jerry Brown on Sun. AM)
> Militant and left chapter activists now havew to search for reasons to put
> effort into the LP. If the Repub.s win Congress and the White House, the
> LP may become the preferred vehicle for union mobilizations on an implicit
> pro-Dem politics. If Clinton wins, it may become the vehicle for Union
> pressure tactics ( on 'our friend')
> There were some attempts to gather the opposition, mainly around Labor
> Militant as Solidarity leaders agreed with the central direction as the
> best possible given the circumstances. Perhaps 100-150 came to these
> groups. Names will be distributed and communication developed on
> assesments and where do 'we' go from here.
> I think that this (temporary?) dead end/stall leaves a vacuum that
> class-conscious solidarity-political activists can fill if we organize
> ourselves. What do you think?

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