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Labor Party's First
Constitutional
Convention


Day Two
Saturday, November 14

Delegates Launch
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Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the California Nurses Association (CNA), opened the convention's second day and introduced the Oh, Sooo Politically Correct Players. The Washington-based troupe delighted delegates with the skit "The Corporate Twilight Zone," which used musical parody and humor to critique downsizing and privatization and urge organizing to confront corporate greed.

Henry Nicholas, president of District 1199C, and an AFSCME vice president, proposed that union members go beyond the concerns of their individual organizations to re-energize the labor movement. He suggested that there is an "awesome responsibility" to "the millions of poor people who will be dumped in the streets as a result of welfare repeal." We can’t look to White House, Congress or city hall, said Nicholas; "we must look to ourselves and organize, organize, organize."

The effective merger of Republicans and Democrats has created a "one-party system," Nicholas said. The job of those at this convention is "to help us find our way to a new labor movement," providing relief to the millions of workers who are looking for direction. "We can no longer worship at the altar of the status quo," Nicholas declared.

Ed Bruno, chairperson of the organizing committee, introduced its members. Brenda Stokely of AFSCME DC 1707, introduced the members of that committee, which she chaired.

PLANS FOR GROWTH

Bruno then introduced the resolutions on organizing and explained that their purpose is to enable the Labor Party to assess recruitment, recommend ways of improving our work and develop mass membership. That mass membership will have to be built, person by person. "All of our experience tells us people will join if we ask them, if we discuss the issues with them," Bruno said.

Committee member Lisa Frank of the Pittsburgh Metro Chapter read Resolution One, "The Labor Party Style of Work," which sets a goal of annual doubling of membership through individual recruiting, expanded outreach to unions and campaigns that lend themselves to party-building.

A friendly amendment strengthened the resolution by calling for the inclusion of party-building goals in electoral as well as non-electoral campaigns. (A motion to reconsider — with the goal of striking this amendment — was withdrawn following discussion.) Delegates then gave the resolution unanimous approval.

RESTRUCTURING TO ORGANIZE

Ann D’Orazio, an organizing committee member from the New York Metro Chapter, read Resolution Two, "Change the Party Structure to Organize Faster and Meet New Responsibilities." Numerous delegates rose with questions about the specific meaning and intent of the resolution, particularly with regard to existing chapters and their relationship to the organizing committees mandated by the resolution. Bruno stressed that the goal is to rearrange party structure to encourage growth.

Delegates debated the merits of an amendment that proposed setting 50 members, instead of 250, as the threshold to be achieved by new chapters. Supporters of the amendment argued the number was unrealistic, especially in rural areas; opponents said that 250 was a realizable goal in keeping with the aim of broadening the party’s base.

LP National Organizer Tony Mazzocchi noted that the smaller states are those with a higher proportion of Labor Party members; Alaska has the highest per capita party membership in the nation. "We’re saying to the big city folks, we want you to catch up to the rural areas," Mazzocchi said. The party’s national organizer assured Labor Party members in states like West Virginia that they are doing a good job; "don’t give up," he said

A voice vote took place; a call for a division of the house followed the chair’s ruling that the amendment had been defeated. The sergeants-at-arms counted the cards of those delegations voting "yes;" a display of cards of those delegations voting "no" clearly indicated the amendment’s defeat. Delegates backed a motion to close debate. The resolution was adopted.

FIRST ANNUAL SILKWOOD AWARD

The discussion of Resolution Two was interrupted for the presentation of the first annual Karen Silkwood Award to labor researcher Kate Bronfenbrenner, for her courage. (No brass plaque, the award took the form of a caricature by UE cartoonist Gary Huck.) "Knowing Karen, she would be proud that this award had been made to Kate," said Tony Mazzocchi in making the presentation.

In response, Bronfenbrenner said she was deeply honored because Karen Silkwood was a real hero to her, and deeply humbled, because she had spent the last 10 years of her life talking to other real heroes — the tens of thousands of workers who have to "jump through successive rings of fire to organize."

The Clinton Administration and Beverly nursing home chain would not have tried to silence her if there was not a resurgent labor movement, Bronfenbrenner said. There is no choice but to stand up for the truth, said the scholar/activist, who linked expansion of labor rights to broader democracy.

AFTERNOON SESSION

The afternoon session began with Labor Party Organizer Ed Bruno introducing Resolution Three, "A Call for More Labor Party Campaigns." The resolution outlines criteria for selecting national campaigns, and proposes four campaigns the Labor Party should undertake, on Just Healthcare, Social Security, a Workplace Bill of Rights, and for a Working Class International Trade Policy.

Delegates discussed several amendments proposed from the floor. They voted down four of these with virtually no discussion. There was some discussion of a proposal to add a campaign for public financing of elections to the list of Labor Party campaigns. Delegates in favor of the resolution argued that public financing is "essential to getting our people elected to office." Bruno explained that the committee agreed it was an important issue but had focused on campaigns that would do more to build Labor Party membership. The proposed amendment was defeated in a voice vote, and delegates then adopted Resolution Three without amendment.

SOLIDARITY HOUR

"Solidarity hour" was next on the agenda, with workers from nine groups of embattled workers testifying about their struggles. A representative from the Han Young workers in Mexico described how workers in that maquiladora plant have fought to win recognition of their independent union. Labor Party co-chair and FLOC president Baldemar Velasquez told about his union’s campaign to win recognition for some 7,000 workers at the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. Delegates adopted a resolution calling for a boycott of the company. A member of the United Steelworkers of America described the fight by USWA members in Pueblo, Colorado who have been locked out since 1997. He called on delegates to pull their union money out of Wells Fargo Bank, which has helped bolster the employer’s war on workers. (CNA later announced it would pull over $1 million of its assets from the bank.) Several members of the UMWA told of their strike over healthcare against the Freeman United Coal Co. in Illinois, a subsidiary of General Dynamics. OCAW President Bob Wages introduced a member of his union who has been on strike against Crown Central Petroleum Company for three years. Delegates passed a motion supporting the locked out workers. Two members of UNITE told of their struggle to get union recognition and a contract at the Freeze Co., which produces t-shirts. ILWU’s Robert Erminger described the legal fight he and his union—and the Labor Party—have been through as a result of their solidarity with striking Liverpool dockworkers. Erminger announced he had just learned that the lawsuit against him had been dropped. He thanked local Labor Party activists for their solid support. A member of the Bakery and Confectionery Workers told delegates that 350 Nabisco workers in Pittsburgh will be losing their jobs on Friday when the company moves the work to a nonunion shop in Ohio. Delegates passed a resolution supporting the Nabisco workers. Three Detroit newspaper strikers told of their years long strike and of what they had learned in the process. "It’s an honor for us to be part of the Labor Party," one of the strikers told the delegates.

UE General President John Hovis then pledged a $1000 contribution to support the struggling workers who had spoken. Urged on by delegates from his union, Wages announced OCAW would add $2000 to the fund. UE then announced it would match OCAW’s $2000. CNA announced a $1000 contribution. Later in the afternoon several more unions and individuals anted up, and the total pledged and contributed came to $17,400, which will be divided up among the nine groups.

MICHAEL MOORE SPEAKS

DeMoro then introduced filmmaker and author Michael Moore, "the Labor Party’s most satirical member." "The American people are sick and tired of the one party system that we have," said Moore. "Let’s let the Democrats and Republicans merge, and let the rest of us have our own Labor Party." Delegates viewed two TV shows produced by Moore. One is scheduled to air on cable’s Bravo channel; the other was cancelled because advertisers objected to its anti-corporate content. Moore announced he had just gotten a $10,000 royalty check for his book, and wanted to contribute all of it to the Labor Party’s educational arm because, he said, "We really need to build this party."

JUST HEALTHCARE

Delegates then turned their attention to the Resolution on Just Healthcare, which was introduced by CNA president Kit Costello. Several delegates spoke in support of the resolution, which details the campaign strategy. A friendly amendment was added to include electoral ballot initiatives as one way to organize support for Just Healthcare. The resolution was adopted unanimously.

SOCIAL SECURITY

OCAW’s Paula Littles introduced a resolution on Social Security. A friendly amendment changed the title of the campaign from "Social Security reform" to "protecting Social Security." Ken Blaylock of AFGE pointed out that the effort to privatize Social Security would also amount to union-busting, since Social Security employees are 100 percent organized. Delegates then debated whether or not to accept an amendment that would call for eliminating the payroll tax earnings cap on Social Security. The amendment was eventually adopted and the resolution passed.

The convention adjourned for the day. Some delegates proceeded to state and union caucuses and to the Cultural Workers and Artists Caucus cartoon auction, where delegates bid on cartoon originals that had toured the country in a show organized by UE’s Gary Huck.

 

Chapter Convention Summary
Day One Summary | Day Three Summary
Summary Index

More Information About the Labor Party

Summaries Produced by Peter Gilmore, Michael Kaufman, and Laura McClure.

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