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

-Andrew English
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

unnecessary.



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

their face.

     (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.



In Solidarity



Sam Smucker





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