James F. Miller
jamiller at igc.apc.org
Fri Jun 28 14:18:36 MDT 1996
MILITANT TAKE ON LABOR PARTY CONVENTION
This is from the Militant (US), posted by Jim Miller, Seattle.
/** militant.news: 2416.0 **/
** Topic: 960708-New 'Labor Party' Won't Run Candidates **
** Written 8:53 PM Jun 27, 1996 by plink in cdp:militant.news **
Title: 960708-57--New 'Labor Party' Won't Run Candidates
>from the Militant, vol.60/no.27 July 8, 1996
BY SUSAN ZA'RATE
CLEVELAND - Some 1,400 delegates and observers attended the
founding convention of the Labor Party here June 6 - 9. The new
party is structured as a group to put pressure on the Democratic
and Republican parties, without running candidates of its own in
The convention was sponsored by Labor Party Advocates, an
organization founded a few years ago with the backing of the top
officials of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union (OCAW).
Its leading figure is Anthony Mazzocchi, a former international
officer of the OCAW and now assistant to the union's president
Official delegations from the United Electrical Workers
(UE), the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE),
and the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union
(ILWU) attended the convention, along with many OCAW officials.
The majority of the convention sessions were chaired by Wages.
Local officials from many other unions also attended,
including unions representing automobile workers, machinists,
steelworkers, government workers, teachers, and social workers.
Delegates were sent from many chapters of the Labor Party
Advocates, organized on a geographic basis. Leading up to the
convention, a number of groups calling themselves socialist or
communist built the event.
Relatively few rank-and-file union members attended the
convention. A group of young people who have signed on to the
AFL-CIO's "Union Summer" campaign were present the first day or
two, but their attendance dwindled sharply after that.
No to ban on endorsing Democrats
Almost all discussion and debate at the four-day convention
centered on proposals for the new party's constitution and
program. Early on, a proposed amendment to the constitution that
would prohibit the Labor Party from endorsing Democratic or
Republican party candidates was overwhelmingly defeated.
Opponents of the amendment, including top officials of the OCAW,
said such a decision would irrevocably split the party.
While the proposed program, "A Call for Economic Justice,"
included some demands favoring affirmative action, a shortened
workweek, and "an immigration policy that does not discriminate
on any basis," no discussion on these issues reached the floor
of the convention. Nor was there any discussion about
Washington's deepening war drive, recent U.S. attacks against
Cuba, nor any other international issues.
This narrow "American" focus of the Labor Party was
pointedly raised by one convention participant at a reception
hosted by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), which had
a sizable delegation at the convention.
After an address by FLOC leader Baldemar Vela'zquez, Mari'a
Guardado, an activist in an immigrant-rights coalition in Los
Angeles spoke up. "I am a survivor of torture by the death
squads in El Salvador," she said, noting that the CIA and other
U.S. governmental agencies trained these murderers.
It is Washington's foreign policy and the economic
stranglehold that U.S. big business maintains on the Third World
that causes much of the misery around the world, Guardado
explained. "There was one small reference to immigration
policies in the [Labor Party] program document, but the fact
that workers are forced to come to the U.S. as a result of U.S.
foreign policy isn't even being talked about at the
convention....The Labor Party doesn't have to be like the
Democrats and Republicans who support such a foreign policy. And
how about an end to the embargo against Cuba?"
On the third day, a proposal was issued jointly by the
constitution and program committees which concluded, "The Labor
Party will not endorse candidates of any kind, will not run
people for office, and will not spend any Labor Party resources
on electoral campaigns, at least until we prove capable of
recruiting and organizing sufficient numbers of working people
around a new agenda."
An amendment put forward by delegates from the
longshoreman's union to soften this stand was defeated after
long debate. Arguing against the amendment, Constitution
Committee member Maryanne Young said, "If we are a unified
voice, maybe one of those other parties would listen to us."
Throughout the course of the meeting, there was often
acrimonious debate between the delegates from the international
officialdom and the left-wing radicals and activists in the
trade unions. A weighted voting procedure was established,
however, which gave the officialdom virtual veto power on all
questions. For example, a representative of each international
union was given a voting card worth 100 votes. At-large
delegates had cards worth only one-fifth of a vote. Other union
officials got weighted votes in between.
Sweeny: `Wrong time for labor party'
Recently elected AFL-CIO president John Sweeny spoke before
the Cleveland City Club on June 5, but pointedly did not attend
the Labor Party convention. In his speech Sweeny said this is
the wrong time to be talking about a labor party. Forming a new
party, Sweeny said, is "a monumental task and we only have six
months until November." He continued, "Shame on us if we start
splitting off or distracting our activists....We should save the
creation of a labor party to a non-presidential year." The AFL-
CIO recently announced it was donating $30 million to get
President William Clinton and other Democrats elected in 1996.
Except for a special point on "solidarity" towards the end
of the convention, there was little talk of ongoing labor
disputes, despite the fact that a number of unionists attended
>from various strikes and lockouts around the country. Those who
came looking for support included striking newspaper workers
>from Detroit and members of OCAW Local 7-517, who have been
locked out by the UNO-VEN refinery in Lemont, Illinois, since
There was some debate over abortion rights. The original Labor
Party platform included a vaguely-worded statement of support to
"informed choice and unimpeded access to a full range of family planning
and reproductive services for men and women." A delegate from the
California Nurses Association proposed the party go on record as
supporting a women's right to choose abortion. This was rejected. One
local official of the OCAW declared, "While I'm for it, my members just
wouldn't understand why this should be part of a labor party platform."
Susan Za'rate is a member of OCAW Local 1-5, and SWP
candidate for San Francisco board of supervisors.
jamiller at igc.apc.org
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