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63rd National
UE Convention
 

Delegates Issue Call
To ‘Build the Labor Party’

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Nobody’s going to tell us what we working people need," said Luis Montes, Local 1421. "We know exactly what we need. Now we’re going to create our own party."

Montes made his remarks while speaking on the resolution "Build the Labor Party." Like other delegates expressing support for the resolution, Montes said his experiences in Washington, D.C., meeting with elected officials during the UE political action conference convinced him of the advantage of working people having their own party.

 

Mary Stewart, Local 618

Mary Stewart, Local 618, related how a District Six delegation received an indifferent reception from Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.), leaving her thinking, "boy, this is our voice, this is how our voice is going to be heard. We’ve got a real problem. We need the Labor Party."

Charlene Winchell, Local 1121, had a similar story, involving a Wisconsin Congressman who claimed he could live on the minimum wage but who clearly didn’t have a clue. "These darn politicians ought to be in our shoes just for a month," she said. "We got our local to affiliate with the Labor Party and we all need to do that. It is so important, you guys."

Bob Rudek, District 11, issued an appeal to delegates who had not yet joined the Labor Party to do so before the convention concluded. He suggested that most of the 31 resolutions before the convention in some way were linked to the Labor Party as a vehicle for solving problems.

 

Carl Rosen, Pres.
UE District 11

 

Reaching out to other union locals in our towns and counties is the next big step the Labor Party has to take, said Carl Rosen, District 11. Unlike UE, those unions don’t have "forthright officers" who say the Labor Party is needed by the country’s working-class movement, he said. "We’re the ones at the local and district levels who can reach out to those other locals and districts."

 

Mindy Williams,
Local 1193

Mindy Williams, Local 1193, supported the resolution but said that the young women who have been forced into her workplace by Wisconsin’s welfare repeal scheme have no understanding of what the Labor Party is about. She asked for assistance from the UE National office.

What about those contests when supporting a Democrat is vital? That was the question posed by Deb Herman, Local 896, who pointed out that a Republican victory in this year’s gubernatorial race in Iowa could lead to the loss of collective bargaining rights for public employees. How should she encourage her members to vote for the Democratic candidate while trying to build the Labor Party?

Labor Party activity and support for good Democrats — like U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold and gubernatorial candidate Ed Garvey in Wisconsin — are not mutually exclusive, suggested Tom Dunne, Local 1172. "Right now the Labor Party is in its formative stages and part of the point of the Labor Party Convention is to determine an electoral strategy," he observed.

Ed Havaich, Local 751, offered a parable to express his support for the Labor Party resolution. "In the labor movement, whether you see yourself as a gazelle or a lion, when the sun comes up we had all better be running."

 

In Politics, Too,
A Matter of ‘Them’ and ‘Us’

 

Chris Townsend,
UE Political Action
Director

 

Politicians lie all the time," reported Chris Townsend, UE political action director. "It’s just that the news media and the special prosecutor and the grand jury never investigate the lies that harm working people."

Bill Clinton, Bob Dole or Newt Gingrich have never been grilled about how they lied to the people about NAFTA, welfare "reform" or Social Security, Townsend pointed out. "The issue here is not lies or lying. It’s a simple matter of them and us. Them who run the country for big business and us who pay all the bills and get the shaft."

Working people can claim some victories over the past year, but face serious battles ahead, the political action director said in his convention remarks.

Derailment of fast track "was a nice win," asserted Townsend, but another big business push to give the President the ability to rush a trade deal through Congress is expected in September.

Union members should be prepared to battle privatization of Social Security and continuing "paycheck protection" assaults on free speech, the political action director added.

Looking at the Administration, Townsend suggested that "Clinton had the opportunity to be a great president" but didn’t want to fight the bosses.

Clinton’s party isn’t much better, he added. "Half the Democrats in Congress still support working people pretty regularly, but about half of them now line up with the Republicans on a regular basis."

Townsend offered three examples: A bill to create free trade zones in sub-Saharan Africa, passed with the help of nearly half the Democrats in the House of Representatives. The "anti-salting" bill that would allow construction bosses to refuse to hire workers suspected of being union organizers; eight Democrats supplied the margin of the employers’ victory. A House vote to repeal overtime pay for more than 540,000 workers who are primarily sales people; the votes of 43 Democrats assisted in passage.

"Just what the hell is going on?" Townsend asked. "Our government has been hijacked by big business and its political front men!" The Democrats still bail us out, he admitted, "but less and less frequently."

As an alternative, he urged the sign-up of thousands as Labor Party members and a large UE delegation to the Labor Party’s first constitutional convention in November.

Townsend said he looked forward to the day when working people run the country and the government defends us from "the corrosive greed of big business," when the Labor Party wins national health care, and bosses are jailed for breaking strikes and organizing drives.

"You owe it to yourselves, you owe it to your families, you owe it to your union, you owe it to the working class that we’re all a part of," Townsend declared, to build the Labor Party and "build this union!"

 


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