The truth about the Labor Party convention (fwd)
Louis N Proyect
lnp3 at columbia.edu
Wed Jun 12 10:40:01 MDT 1996
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 12 Jun 1996 08:42:35 -0700
From: "Andrew J. English" <aenglish%CRL.COM at CUVMB.CC.COLUMBIA.EDU>
Reply-To: COC-L - Committees of Correspondence List
<COC-L at CMSA.BERKELEY.EDU>
To: Multiple recipients of list COC-L <COC-L at CMSA.BERKELEY.EDU>
Subject: The truth about the Labor Party convention
Convention delegate Zarembka made a post to labr.party
newsgroup on the IGC network. Zarembka attacked the convention
as undemocratic and opposed several of its decisions. His post was
forwarded to several progressive e-mail lists, but a response made on
labr.party by a UE delegate was not provided to those lists.
I have pasted the UE delegate's remarks below. As part of the Arizona
delegation, I feel his remarks are more representative of what
really happened. In truth, the vast majority of the union delegates
(not just the international unions) voted together most of the time,
and many of the chapter delegates also supported the unions positions.
As for how the voice votes sounded, that depends on where you were
sitting (the union delegates sat in front, the ultralefts were con-
centrated in particular chapters). On
all the major questions, card counts votes were taken
Arizona chapter delegate
/* Written 12:20 AM Jun 12, 1996 by smucker in igc:labr.party */
Brothers and Sisters,
I am an organizer with the UE and I really must disagree with
several points that brother Zarembka makes in his assessment of the
Labor Party Convention.
1. Undemocratic Structures?
Voting was distributed to delegates by the amount of union members
they represent. It seems to me to be reasonable that OCAW which
represents roughly 100,000 union member should receive 100 votes
while a local union that represents 200 should receive 3 votes and
a chapter representing 50 people should receive 2 votes. Brother
Zarembka is correct in saying that this was never voted on, but of
course how can you vote on the weight of voting.
The National Council (basically a national steering committee) and
much of the Constitution are designed so that when (and if) large
unions come into the Labor Party they will have a say in what is
happening. Chapters will receive one vote on the National Council
in total. The logic to this is that this is a Labor Party rooted
to the union movement. The unions are headed by an elected
leadership representing large numbers of working class people. The
chapters are small groups of self-selected individuals with very
little base beyond those individuals and which give only a minute
amount of monetary support to the Labor Party.
I felt that the proceedings were basically democratic in the sense
that all had input and representative majorities came to
overwhelming consensus. As with any floor debate their was a
losing side and a winning side. And the deck was stacked heavily
in favor of the International unions which were more or less of one
mind. But, let's be realistic. We had about 8% of union members
represented there. The entire thing was put on by a couple of
small, financially strapped unions which threw $100,000 into a
convention. They certainly were not going to let anyone who walked
in off the street control it. After all, the leadership of these
unions are elected and they do have to be responsible to their
membership whose money paid for our new Labor Party.
2. The Floor Debate
The Resolutions moved from committee were passed with several
changes to both the Constitution and the Platform. In general the
purpose of committees were to create a document which had the
support on most issues of the majority of the delegates so that
every single point would not have to be debated. This was the
case. Nonetheless, there were endless amendments proposed from the
floor (and voted down) many of which (although certainly not all)
were frivolous or the spirit of which (if not the exact same
wording) was already captured in the document.
Because of the endless amendment motions we did not even get
through the Constitution until late Saturday afternoon. There were
several important changes suggested from the floor and I think
almost all of them were accepted as friendly amendments by the
committee or the committee recessed and made a compromise proposal
once they realized the house was divided on some issue. Changes
had to do with the amount of dues for endorsing bodies, and
representation on the National Council for local unions with as few
as 2,500 (down from 15,000) members. These were some very
significant changes and were almost unanimously approved once the
committee made the changes.
(As far as I know this is a totally appropriate procedures under
Robert's Rules. The committee changed its proposal in order reach
a platform approved by the majority. There were very few votes
that were not overwhelmingly one-sided. When there were close
votes or extensive disagreements the committee would recommend
changes or accept amendments instead of leaving the house divided
with a close vote).
3. The Platform
The platform was 16 pages long and everyone wanted to tag on their
special amendment to it. Delegates continually voted down things
that were clearly in the spirit of the platform, but basically
Despite the dozens of amendments offered there seemed to be only
two real debates: whether to add the word "abortion" to the
platform and the pace at which we become an electoral vehicle.
First of all, the platform is the most pro-choice platform of any
real political party I know. It clearly states support for
"informed choice" and the committee stated that it was their
understanding that this meant a woman's right to have an abortion.
Furthermore, any family planning medical procedure would be free of
cost. The majority of delegates, I felt, thought that the word
"abortion" would divide working class union members and they did
not want to play into that trap. I heard today that FLOC would
have walked (with their entirely Catholic membership) if the
proposed amendment had been added. Jane Slaughter of Labor Notes
said it best, I paraphrase, the pro-choice side won this debate and
to add the word "abortion" would just be needlessly sticking it in
(By the way, this vote went to a division of the house and a
card count by the Sergeant at Arms. Then before the total was
announced OCAW and UE caucused and reconsidered there positions.
In the end both remained unchanged. OCAW and UE membership did not
vote as a block on this issue although a majority took the majority
position. And, the UE national officers abstained their 100 votes
because our membership was divided.)
On the question of running candidates, the majority opted for
establishing an electoral committee which will make a proposal for
an electoral strategy to the next convention in two years. This
gives the committee a lot of latitude depending on whether the
Party has grown significantly over the next two years.
I'm sorry that Brother Zarembka worries about OCAW and UE
running the show. I hope he will feel better when SEIU, the
Teamsters and the UAW are running it next time. Only then will we
have created a real mass based Labor Party. The way I see it, the
electoral strategy is set up to bring in the big unions and to
allow the endorsing unions to fund the Labor Party as a non-
electoral organization for the time being.
If you don't like the leadership of the big unions then you
should try to change it from the inside, but we aren't going to
build a serious Labor Party without the institutional resources and
membership allegiance of the biggest unions. The other option is
the well-tried quixotic route.
Overall, I sensed a good deal of enthusiasm about the future
of the Labor Party. I heard that the SEIU official delegation was
watching the proceedings in ernest and seemed pleased (10% of
SEIU's members were represented on the floor). The Carpenters were
also well represented.
There is certainly a lot of work to do. We need especially
to get as many locals, districts, and Internationals to become
endorser as possible. It's a long road ahead. It seems to me that
patience and planning are what's needed.
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