Fwd: Another report on the Labor Party convention

Jonupstny at aol.com Jonupstny at aol.com
Sat Jun 15 21:32:22 MDT 1996


In a message dated 96-06-15 08:58:34 EDT, aenglish at crl.com writes:

>Dear Rodney,
>        I am sending this in two ways. Once in text, second as an attachment
>                                        Dan
>
>                                        June 11, 1996
>          A Report
>                 Unions Create Labor Party
>             To Fight For Economic Justice
>                         by Dan La Botz*
>     In a hall bedecked with banners portraying the history of
>American labor, over 1,400 delegates from 44 states, representing
>nearly two million union members met in Cleveland, Ohio from June
>6-9 to found the Labor Party, a new political party in the United
>States committed to fight against the corporate agenda and for
>economic justice.
>     In the keynote address Bob Wages, president of the Oil,
>Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) told the convention, "We're
>going to organize a political party that represents the working
>class in this country....We going to organize to take our country
>back."
>     "Only by organizing from the bottom up are we going to
>create a movement hat becomes a political party that takes on the
>money interests," said Wages.
>     "Our country stands at a crossroads. We have some basic
>decisions to makes as a society....Will this country be run for
>the money-class or committed to its poorest constituencies who
>make it run every day?"
>     The convention adopted a program titled "A Call for Economic
>Justice" which proposed a constitutional amendment to guarantee
>every American a job at a living wage, a minimum wage of $10 an
>hour indexed to rise with inflation, a 32-hour work week, 20
>weeks of paid vacation yearly, and a universal single-payer
>health program. The party decided, however, on a two year
>moratorium on running candidates, a decision thus deferred to the
>organization's next national convention.
>                    Hightower, Brown and Nader
>     Speakers at the convention included union leader Bob Wages
>of the Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW), Robert Clark of
>the United Electrical workers (UE), Baldemar Velasquez, president
>of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC). Jim Hightower, the
>former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture and Jerry Brown, former
>Governor of California also addressed the convention, bringing he
>delegates to their feet cheering with their vehement attacks on
>the corporate agenda of both the Republican and Democratic
>parties.
>     "Who fights for the working class?" asked Hightower. "Not
>the Democrats. They're sleeping with Wall Street, but you and me
>are getting screwed. It's the working class that speaks for the
>working class."
>     The main divide in American society, said Hightower, is not
>right to left, but top to bottom, and the job of the Labor Party
>was to organize the bottom.
>     "I've come here," said Jerry Brown, "because I believe we
>are on the cusp of a change."
>     "I sometimes tell people," said Brown, "that I'm a
>recovering politician, and as part of my recovery I have to tell
>the truth."
>     "You cannot derive economic justice from corporate plunder,"
>Brown said. "The political parties are nothing more than the end
>products of corporate plunder, Republicans and Democrats alike."
>     Speaking as a delegate from the floor, consumer advocate
>Ralph Nader told the delegates, "This convention will be looked
>upon as the rebirth of the labor movement after so many years of
>being subordinated to corporate power." Nader told the delegates
>that the corporations had "no allegiance to this nation" but
>rather "cross the globe looking for brutal dictators to suppress
>labor." Nader won a round of applause when he told the
>convention, "A society rots from the top down, and it
>reconstructs from the bottom up."
>                         Driving Forces
>     The driving forces behind the creation of the labor party
>were two labor unions: the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union
>(OCAW) and the United Electrical workers (UE). Tony Mazzocchi, a
>long-time OCAW leader and noted fighter for occupational and
>environmental health, has been the central figure in the creation
>of the new organization. The UE, a small, independent union has
>for decades advocated the creation of a working class political
>party in the United States.
>     The OCAW and the UE represented the two largest union
>delegations at the convention, though several other union groups
>were also present, among them a large group from the Service
>Employees International Union (SEIU), a delegation from the
>International Longshore and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU), and good
>sized group of organized nurses.
>     The convention's social composition did not reflect that of
>American labor, in particular black workers were under-
>represented. Black Workers for Justice (BWfJ) was an important
>presence. While the United Mine Workers (UMW) endorsed the
>convention shortly before it opened, few miners were present. The
>United Auto Workers (UAW) probably has the most efficient
>political machine in the country, but the UAW leadership is
>strongly committed to the Democratic Party and deeply hostile to
>the idea of a labor party or any other form of independent
>political action. A few members of the UAW's opposition caucus
>the New Directions Movement were present, including its national
>organizer Jerry Tucker.
>     There were surprisingly few Teamsters and only a few members
>of Teamster for a Democratic Union, probably the most important
>rank and file organization in the United States, perhaps because
>Teamsters are quite busy with the election campaign in their own
>union which pits incumbent reformer Ron Carey against the old
>guard's candidate Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. However, Ken Paff, TDU's
>national organizer, spent a day or two at the convention, as did
>several other TDU members.
>     In addition to the labor union organizations which
>represented perhaps 80 percent of the votes at the convention,
>there were also delegates from Labor Party Advocates chapters and
>at-large delegates. Many of the chapters involve younger members,
>radical activists, and members of small leftist organizations.
>All were welcome and had their opportunity to speak and present
>resolutions to the floor--a convention many delegates noted far
>more open and democratic than that of most labor unions--though
>throughout the two major labor union organizations held a clear
>majority of the votes.
>                    Controversial Issues
>     The controversial issues debated by the convention were
>three: 1) the role of the former Labor Party Advocates chapters
>in the new party; 2) the question of whether or not to run or
>endorse candidates in elections; and, 3) the question of whether
>or not to use the word "abortion" in the party's program.
>     The chapters represented a tiny proportion of the
>conventions weighted votes, but they represented a large number
>of Labor Party Advocates activists, often of the radical sort.
>The chapters feared that the larger labor organizations might
>disenfranchise them, but in the end the convention reached a
>compromise which could give the chapters some representation on
>the national leadership bodies, and would also give them their
>own convention to chose their representatives.
>     Probably the most important issue was the question of
>whether or not the Labor Party would run candidates in elections.
>The OCAW leadership argued that running candidates was not wise
>or feasible at this time. Not wise because unions funds and
>organizers, which have so far bankrolled the Labor Party
>Advocates, cannot be used for partisan political campaigns. Not
>feasible because the new party has yet to organize a mass
>following and substantial organization.
>     More radical critics argued that while the Labor Party might
>not yet be ready for a national political election or
>presidential campaign, that it could undertake city, county or
>state elections. Many both among the majority unionists and among
>some of the radicals felt that the party would grow through
>school board, city council or county board campaigns, taking its
>message to local voters by knocking on doors and talking to
>neighbors.
>     A small minority of radicals wanted the Labor Party to
>explicitly reject support for Democratic or Republican party
>candidates, but that position went down to defeat under a barrage
>from the union bloc. In the end the convention decided to endorse
>no candidates for two years, deferring the decision to the next
>convention. The Labor Party may engage in other sorts of
>political campaigns, such as the living wage campaigns, anti-
>replacement work legislation, pro-worker reform of labor laws,
>and support for national health care.
>     Some delegates feared that if the Labor Party did not run
>candidates and/or explicitly reject support for the two major
>parties, particularly the Democratic Party, that it would be
>reduced to becoming a mere pressure group n the Democrats. In an
>interview with the Cleveland Free Press immediately following the
>convention, Maryanne Young, a member of the Constitution
>Committee, told reporter Ian Fried, that she saw the Labor Party
>as initially playing a role like that of the Christian Coalition.
>"If we are a unified voice, maybe one of those other parties
>would listen to us," Young said. Those remarks probably well
>express the fears of the Labor Party's more radical members.
>     The third controversial issue had to do with the question of
>reproductive rights. Some feminists wanted the convention to
>explicitly include opposition to forced sterilization and to make
>an explicit reference to women's right to abortion. The
>convention voted to support the former, but rejected the latter,
>several speakers arguing that the word "abortion" would simply
>antagonize some of the workers that the Labor Party wanted to
>reach. The moderates won, and the FLOC's largely Roman Catholic
>members cheered and waved flags. But still the language adopted
>clearly included women's rights to contraception and abortion,
>but avoided any mention of the word, calling for: "informed
>choice and unimpeded access to a full range of family planning
>and reproductive service for men and women."
>               Motions from the Rank and File
>     Throughout the convention various groups caucused, not only
>the labor unions, but also women and African Americans. The black
>caucus brought amendments to the floor calling for a clear stand
>in opposition to racism, while women called for fair
>representation on all leadership bodies. Some motions came from
>individual members. Early on Mark Dimondstein, president of the
>Greater Greensboro Area Local 711 of the American Postal Workers
>Union, AFL-CIO, made the following amendment to the preamble to
>constitution: "We believe in a country that honors and respects
>the rights of workers in all other lands as well as our own." The
>amendment passed unanimously.
>     The convention proceeded remarkably smoothly, fairly and
>democratically, with only one rough spot. At one point the ILWU
>proposed an amendment to the constitution, and was promptly
>shutdown by chairman Bob Wages who could count on the support of
>his giant OCAW delegation. The ILWU delegation reportedly
>threatened to walk out of the convention if their motion did not
>get a fair hearing on the floor.
>     During the lunch break, Wages and his colleagues
>reconsidered the decision, and returned to the hall proposing to
>reopen the discussion, and then turned the floor over to the
>longshore delegates. At no other point did the OCAW, UE or other
>large union delegations use their bloc votes to stifle discussion
>or debate, perhaps because they knew all along that they held the
>majority and had no fear of being outvoted.
>     All sorts of unions and other organizations held hospitality
>suites at the convention. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee
>(FLOC) filled a dining room with a hundred people who listened to
>Baldemar Velazquez recount the history of FLOC's eight year
>campaign to organize workers on farms producing for Campbell's
>soups and Vlasic's pickles. Velazquez then turned to the new
>Labor Party, putting on his preacher hat, made a mystical
>prediction: "Brothers and sisters, you have no idea what an
>historic occasion this is, such hope and such expectation. In the
>spiritual realm of life the heavens are shaking, the nation's are
>trembling, the earth is rattling. We are witnessing a reordering
>of the forces that will shake this world, based on the people who
>roll up their sleeves and go to work every day."
>                    Where Does It Go From Here?
>     In the end, through a process of debate and votes on the
>floor accompanied by behind the scenes negotiation and compromise
>between the OCAW, UE, SEIU and ILWU, the delegates adopted a
>Constitution and a program and proclaimed themselves Labor Party.
>What they failed to do however was decide on a program of action
>for the next two years, a task delegated to an interim leadership
>body.
>     Many delegates indicated that in the meantime, they would go
>home and recruit members, engage in strike support, work on the
>campaign for a fair wage, and hope that the interim leadership
>would soon give them clearer direction. Some delegates planned to
>work on a national march to take place in Detroit to support the
>striking newspaper unions there.
>     The United States has had more radical political parties,
>but has seldom had the numbers. Perhaps at no time in the last 60
>or 70 years has there existed such a potential political force
>for progressive social change.
>______________
>*Dan La Botz is a member of the National Writers Union/UAW and
>was an at-large delegate to the founding convention of the Labor
>Party.
>
>


---------------------
Forwarded message:
From:	aenglish at crl.com
Reply-to:	labr.party at conf.igc.apc.org (Conference labr.party)
To:	labr.party at conf.igc.apc.org (Recipients of conference)
Date: 96-06-15 08:58:34 EDT

From: "Andrew J. English" <aenglish at crl.com>
Subject: Another report on the Labor Party convention



---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 1996 18:20:35 EDT
From: Dan La Botz <103144.2651 at COMPUSERVE.COM>
To: Multiple recipients of list SLDRTY-L <SLDRTY-L at LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
Subject: FINAL VERSION NOT GARBLED (I HOPE)

Dear Rodney,
        I am sending this in two ways. Once in text, second as an attachment
                                        Dan

                                        June 11, 1996
          A Report
                 Unions Create Labor Party
             To Fight For Economic Justice
                         by Dan La Botz*
     In a hall bedecked with banners portraying the history of
American labor, over 1,400 delegates from 44 states, representing
nearly two million union members met in Cleveland, Ohio from June
6-9 to found the Labor Party, a new political party in the United
States committed to fight against the corporate agenda and for
economic justice.
     In the keynote address Bob Wages, president of the Oil,
Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) told the convention, "We're
going to organize a political party that represents the working
class in this country....We going to organize to take our country
back."
     "Only by organizing from the bottom up are we going to
create a movement hat becomes a political party that takes on the
money interests," said Wages.
     "Our country stands at a crossroads. We have some basic
decisions to makes as a society....Will this country be run for
the money-class or committed to its poorest constituencies who
make it run every day?"
     The convention adopted a program titled "A Call for Economic
Justice" which proposed a constitutional amendment to guarantee
every American a job at a living wage, a minimum wage of $10 an
hour indexed to rise with inflation, a 32-hour work week, 20
weeks of paid vacation yearly, and a universal single-payer
health program. The party decided, however, on a two year
moratorium on running candidates, a decision thus deferred to the
organization's next national convention.
                    Hightower, Brown and Nader
     Speakers at the convention included union leader Bob Wages
of the Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW), Robert Clark of
the United Electrical workers (UE), Baldemar Velasquez, president
of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC). Jim Hightower, the
former Texas Commissioner of Agriculture and Jerry Brown, former
Governor of California also addressed the convention, bringing he
delegates to their feet cheering with their vehement attacks on
the corporate agenda of both the Republican and Democratic
parties.
     "Who fights for the working class?" asked Hightower. "Not
the Democrats. They're sleeping with Wall Street, but you and me
are getting screwed. It's the working class that speaks for the
working class."
     The main divide in American society, said Hightower, is not
right to left, but top to bottom, and the job of the Labor Party
was to organize the bottom.
     "I've come here," said Jerry Brown, "because I believe we
are on the cusp of a change."
     "I sometimes tell people," said Brown, "that I'm a
recovering politician, and as part of my recovery I have to tell
the truth."
     "You cannot derive economic justice from corporate plunder,"
Brown said. "The political parties are nothing more than the end
products of corporate plunder, Republicans and Democrats alike."
     Speaking as a delegate from the floor, consumer advocate
Ralph Nader told the delegates, "This convention will be looked
upon as the rebirth of the labor movement after so many years of
being subordinated to corporate power." Nader told the delegates
that the corporations had "no allegiance to this nation" but
rather "cross the globe looking for brutal dictators to suppress
labor." Nader won a round of applause when he told the
convention, "A society rots from the top down, and it
reconstructs from the bottom up."
                         Driving Forces
     The driving forces behind the creation of the labor party
were two labor unions: the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers union
(OCAW) and the United Electrical workers (UE). Tony Mazzocchi, a
long-time OCAW leader and noted fighter for occupational and
environmental health, has been the central figure in the creation
of the new organization. The UE, a small, independent union has
for decades advocated the creation of a working class political
party in the United States.
     The OCAW and the UE represented the two largest union
delegations at the convention, though several other union groups
were also present, among them a large group from the Service
Employees International Union (SEIU), a delegation from the
International Longshore and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU), and good
sized group of organized nurses.
     The convention's social composition did not reflect that of
American labor, in particular black workers were under-
represented. Black Workers for Justice (BWfJ) was an important
presence. While the United Mine Workers (UMW) endorsed the
convention shortly before it opened, few miners were present. The
United Auto Workers (UAW) probably has the most efficient
political machine in the country, but the UAW leadership is
strongly committed to the Democratic Party and deeply hostile to
the idea of a labor party or any other form of independent
political action. A few members of the UAW's opposition caucus
the New Directions Movement were present, including its national
organizer Jerry Tucker.
     There were surprisingly few Teamsters and only a few members
of Teamster for a Democratic Union, probably the most important
rank and file organization in the United States, perhaps because
Teamsters are quite busy with the election campaign in their own
union which pits incumbent reformer Ron Carey against the old
guard's candidate Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. However, Ken Paff, TDU's
national organizer, spent a day or two at the convention, as did
several other TDU members.
     In addition to the labor union organizations which
represented perhaps 80 percent of the votes at the convention,
there were also delegates from Labor Party Advocates chapters and
at-large delegates. Many of the chapters involve younger members,
radical activists, and members of small leftist organizations.
All were welcome and had their opportunity to speak and present
resolutions to the floor--a convention many delegates noted far
more open and democratic than that of most labor unions--though
throughout the two major labor union organizations held a clear
majority of the votes.
                    Controversial Issues
     The controversial issues debated by the convention were
three: 1) the role of the former Labor Party Advocates chapters
in the new party; 2) the question of whether or not to run or
endorse candidates in elections; and, 3) the question of whether
or not to use the word "abortion" in the party's program.
     The chapters represented a tiny proportion of the
conventions weighted votes, but they represented a large number
of Labor Party Advocates activists, often of the radical sort.
The chapters feared that the larger labor organizations might
disenfranchise them, but in the end the convention reached a
compromise which could give the chapters some representation on
the national leadership bodies, and would also give them their
own convention to chose their representatives.
     Probably the most important issue was the question of
whether or not the Labor Party would run candidates in elections.
The OCAW leadership argued that running candidates was not wise
or feasible at this time. Not wise because unions funds and
organizers, which have so far bankrolled the Labor Party
Advocates, cannot be used for partisan political campaigns. Not
feasible because the new party has yet to organize a mass
following and substantial organization.
     More radical critics argued that while the Labor Party might
not yet be ready for a national political election or
presidential campaign, that it could undertake city, county or
state elections. Many both among the majority unionists and among
some of the radicals felt that the party would grow through
school board, city council or county board campaigns, taking its
message to local voters by knocking on doors and talking to
neighbors.
     A small minority of radicals wanted the Labor Party to
explicitly reject support for Democratic or Republican party
candidates, but that position went down to defeat under a barrage
>from the union bloc. In the end the convention decided to endorse
no candidates for two years, deferring the decision to the next
convention. The Labor Party may engage in other sorts of
political campaigns, such as the living wage campaigns, anti-
replacement work legislation, pro-worker reform of labor laws,
and support for national health care.
     Some delegates feared that if the Labor Party did not run
candidates and/or explicitly reject support for the two major
parties, particularly the Democratic Party, that it would be
reduced to becoming a mere pressure group n the Democrats. In an
interview with the Cleveland Free Press immediately following the
convention, Maryanne Young, a member of the Constitution
Committee, told reporter Ian Fried, that she saw the Labor Party
as initially playing a role like that of the Christian Coalition.
"If we are a unified voice, maybe one of those other parties
would listen to us," Young said. Those remarks probably well
express the fears of the Labor Party's more radical members.
     The third controversial issue had to do with the question of
reproductive rights. Some feminists wanted the convention to
explicitly include opposition to forced sterilization and to make
an explicit reference to women's right to abortion. The
convention voted to support the former, but rejected the latter,
several speakers arguing that the word "abortion" would simply
antagonize some of the workers that the Labor Party wanted to
reach. The moderates won, and the FLOC's largely Roman Catholic
members cheered and waved flags. But still the language adopted
clearly included women's rights to contraception and abortion,
but avoided any mention of the word, calling for: "informed
choice and unimpeded access to a full range of family planning
and reproductive service for men and women."
               Motions from the Rank and File
     Throughout the convention various groups caucused, not only
the labor unions, but also women and African Americans. The black
caucus brought amendments to the floor calling for a clear stand
in opposition to racism, while women called for fair
representation on all leadership bodies. Some motions came from
individual members. Early on Mark Dimondstein, president of the
Greater Greensboro Area Local 711 of the American Postal Workers
Union, AFL-CIO, made the following amendment to the preamble to
constitution: "We believe in a country that honors and respects
the rights of workers in all other lands as well as our own." The
amendment passed unanimously.
     The convention proceeded remarkably smoothly, fairly and
democratically, with only one rough spot. At one point the ILWU
proposed an amendment to the constitution, and was promptly
shutdown by chairman Bob Wages who could count on the support of
his giant OCAW delegation. The ILWU delegation reportedly
threatened to walk out of the convention if their motion did not
get a fair hearing on the floor.
     During the lunch break, Wages and his colleagues
reconsidered the decision, and returned to the hall proposing to
reopen the discussion, and then turned the floor over to the
longshore delegates. At no other point did the OCAW, UE or other
large union delegations use their bloc votes to stifle discussion
or debate, perhaps because they knew all along that they held the
majority and had no fear of being outvoted.
     All sorts of unions and other organizations held hospitality
suites at the convention. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee
(FLOC) filled a dining room with a hundred people who listened to
Baldemar Velazquez recount the history of FLOC's eight year
campaign to organize workers on farms producing for Campbell's
soups and Vlasic's pickles. Velazquez then turned to the new
Labor Party, putting on his preacher hat, made a mystical
prediction: "Brothers and sisters, you have no idea what an
historic occasion this is, such hope and such expectation. In the
spiritual realm of life the heavens are shaking, the nation's are
trembling, the earth is rattling. We are witnessing a reordering
of the forces that will shake this world, based on the people who
roll up their sleeves and go to work every day."
                    Where Does It Go From Here?
     In the end, through a process of debate and votes on the
floor accompanied by behind the scenes negotiation and compromise
between the OCAW, UE, SEIU and ILWU, the delegates adopted a
Constitution and a program and proclaimed themselves Labor Party.
What they failed to do however was decide on a program of action
for the next two years, a task delegated to an interim leadership
body.
     Many delegates indicated that in the meantime, they would go
home and recruit members, engage in strike support, work on the
campaign for a fair wage, and hope that the interim leadership
would soon give them clearer direction. Some delegates planned to
work on a national march to take place in Detroit to support the
striking newspaper unions there.
     The United States has had more radical political parties,
but has seldom had the numbers. Perhaps at no time in the last 60
or 70 years has there existed such a potential political force
for progressive social change.
______________
*Dan La Botz is a member of the National Writers Union/UAW and
was an at-large delegate to the founding convention of the Labor
Party.




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