Nader ... Keep House ...
Delegates gave a rapturous welcome to crusading consumer
advocate Ralph Nader, introduced by chairperson Rose Ann DeMoro as "the shop steward
of the American people." Nader told the convention that time was right to build a
major new party that speaks for workers. He gave strong approval to the guidelines for
electoral activity adopted by delegates on Friday afternoon. "Theres no point
in going into the political arena if you dont know where youre going," he
said. The popular speaker also counseled the Labor Party to tolerate "no infiltration
and subversion" of its ranks.
Nader pointed out that working people have been losing ground while the gap between
their wages and executive salaries grows ever greater. The average chief executive officer
now makes 200-300 times more than the average entry-level worker; the minimum wage is
one-third less, in real terms, what it was in 1950.
The consumer advocate pointed to the multinational corporations growing
concentration of power and wealth in virtually every sphere, and encouraged the Labor
Party leadership to look beyond the work environment, to see working people as consumers,
taxpayers and voters as well.
In 93 major races on Election Day 1998 candidates faced no or only nominal opposition,
Nader observed. "The hollowness of the two-party system is your tunnel to
success." The Labor Party is very likely to win races at the local level if it
chooses them carefully, he added.
FAIR TRADE CAMPAIGN
Next, the convention considered and adopted a resolution setting out a fair trade
campaign; the resolution rejects "NAFTA, WTO, MAI and all such free trade
agreements." The resolution also says that no goods should be allowed to enter this
country unless produced under ILO-convention conditions or basic occupational safety and
health and environmental conditions. Delegates rejected an amendments specifying that
international boycott or solidarity campaigns be conducted only when initiated or endorsed
by workers of the country concerned.
The convention adopted a number of constitutional amendments, including a revised Labor
Party Implementation Agreement, that were largely housekeeping measures. Delegates
approved a provision that allows the $500 affiliation fee to be reduced in case of need.
The Constitution Committee accepted as a friendly amendment language requiring the next
Labor Party convention to take place in the spring of 2002; the original language had left
the time, date and place at the discretion of the National Council, but within five years.
The convention accepted a number of Resolutions Committee proposals for fine-tuning the
language of the partys program.
A debate ensued over the Committees proposed language that unions should have the
right to bargain and strike free from government interference; the convention rejected
narrower language. One proposal from the Committee advocated the addition of
"religion" and "political beliefs" to the divisions promoted by
employers; delegates approved without discussion an amendment from the floor adding
Delegates also debated the abortion issue; proposed but ultimately defeated amendments
would have taken the party in two divergent directions. The convention voted
overwhelmingly to keep the language adopted at the founding convention, together with this
amendment recommended by the Resolutions Committee: "Unimpeded access to a full range
of family planning and reproductive services for men and women, including the right to
continue or terminate a pregnancy. We oppose any forms of coerced sterilization."
Kathleen ONan gave the final credentials report: A total of 1,414 delegates
attended the convention. These included six international union delegations with 149
delegates, 177 affiliated locals and regional union body delegations with 473 delegates,
56 endorsing union delegates with 114 delegates and 39 chapter delegations with 207
Baldemar Velasquez of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee took the microphone to
respond to rumors that his delegation would have walked out had the convention adopted a
resolution specifically referring to abortion. FLOC would not have walked; "we are
not a one-issue organization," he said. Stressing his members religious
beliefs, including a belief in the sanctity of life, he said the question is, would the
delegates accept FLOC? Delegates responded with warm applause.
Chapter Convention Summary
Day One Summary | Day Two
More Information About the Labor Party
Summaries Produced by Peter Gilmore, Michael Kaufman,
and Laura McClure.
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