Convention Builds Realistic
Future For Labor Party
photo ©2002, Michael Kaufman
Through issue campaigns and recruitment from within unions, the Labor Party aspires to become (in the words of its
organizing resolution) "the answer workers are looking for the answer to corporate domination." The Second Constitutional
Convention July 25-28 reaffirmed both the party's goals and a realistic plan for growth.
Delegates endorsed a resolution on organizing which recommits the party to its three core campaigns Just Health Care,
Worker Rights and Free Higher Education, calls for "Issue Organizing Committees" to support these and other campaigns, and looks
to develop new recruitment plans, including industry-specific organizing.
"Our organizing style builds upon campaigns and approaches that can capture the imagination of large numbers of
working people," the resolution states. "Labor Party organizing focuses the attention of working people both on the ills of
corporate greed, and on the rights and benefits that should belong to all."
Recognizing that "Labor unions provide institutional support and credibility crucial to the party's growth," the
resolution says the party's "organizing approach also must focus on building affiliations among our core constituencies."
Noel Beasley of the Chicago-based Midwest Board of UNITE hailed this approach as "broad and inclusive," and
an indication that the Labor Party is "moving from the defense to the offense."
Beasley, who chaired the convention's organizing committee, predicted this "campaign-style approach" will lead
to recruitment among trade unionists.
Reports at the opening session suggested that a number of LP chapters have been busy and successful in their work
on the party's campaigns. The Maine chapter has worked extensively with the state labor federation and local labor councils on the Just
Healthcare campaign, and was the key mover in Portland's successful (but non-binding) referendum in favor of single-payer health care. The
party's Gainesville, Fla. organizing committee gained a 65 percent majority in favor of Just Healthcare in a 2000 referendum in Alachua
County. Labor Party-sponsored referenda on single-payer in Massachusetts electoral districts have been unbeatable.
Extensive community mobilization by the United Mineworkers led to the unlikely result of a mine retiree health benefits
bill signed into law by President Bush. (The UMWA is an LP affiliate.) "Working people are ready for the Labor Party," declared
a leader of the Oakland, Calif. Women's Economic Agenda, an LP affiliate with experience fighting for a living wage. The San Francisco
chapter succeeded in bringing the issue of public power forward and ran a candidate for the municipal utility board. The Massachusetts LP
enjoyed success with pro-public education referenda in five legislative districts.
Resolutions proposed "good-quality, safe and affordable housing in the United States," opposed government
control of unions, agreed the party should consider support of electoral reform measures and called for "a new labor law."
Speaking on behalf of the labor law reform resolution, a delegate from the California Nurses Association said she had been through five
organizing campaigns before a union finally overcame management obstruction and legal delays.
The convention unanimously adopted the resolution "Pensions for All." Applause interrupted the reading of the
resolution on the "Meltdown of Corporate America," which reaffirmed the party's commitment to its "Call for Economic
Justice" as "a common sense solution to unabashed corporate greed."
A "Resolution on National Security" supported the right of nations to protect themselves against terrorist
attacks while opposing attacks on American workers "under the guise of national defense." In endorsing this resolution the
Resolutions Committee recommended nonconcurrence with numerous resolutions on foreign policy issues. Following lengthy parliamentary
skirmishes, delegates overwhelmingly rejected several amendments to the national security resolution, approved the resolution and endorsed
the committee's nonconcurrence recommendations.
Former UE Dir. of Org. Ed Bruno. Photo ©2002, Michael Kaufman
Committee chairperson Dave Campbell, a PACE local leader, explained that "It's just not the questions at hand,
but the implications for future growth" that the committee considered.
Preceding the work of the constitutional convention, an educational conference showcased the best thinking of activists
and experts on health care, workers' rights, free higher education and fair trade. UE Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bruce Klipple chaired the
fair trade panel, former Dir. of Org. Ed Bruno the workers' rights panel.
PRAYERS FOR MINERS
From left: Joslyn N. Williams, Pres., Metro Washington Council,
AFL-CIO; UMWA President Cecil Roberts and CNA Executive Dir. Rose Ann DeMoro.
photo ©2002, Michael Kaufman
UMWA Pres. Cecil Roberts, the keynote speaker, asked for and received a moment of silence for the miners trapped in
the Quecreek Mine in Somerset County, Pa. Roberts said he was amazed that the news media should find it remarkable that his union had
offered assistance in the rescue of non-union miners. On Sept. 11, union members had rushed to the burning, collapsing towers in that
rescue mission. "This is a movement of heroes," Roberts declared. "We should be proud of who we are."
What's been labor's reward? Roberts asked. Another million jobs gone, 401(k) plans collapsing, pensions gone, he said.
What's wrong with America, the labor leader suggested, is "too few folks have got too much money." He urged delegates to be
"fed up" and "fired up," and then to "stand up and fight back."
United Steelworkers Pres. Leo Gerard had a similar prescription. "Being here's not enough," he said.
"You have to go back and build a movement."
WORTH GETTING ANGRY'
USWA President Leo Gerard. Photo ©2002, Michael Kaufman
As the Labor Party was meeting, Gerard pointed out, Congress was engaged in a "triple double-cross" of the
American people, passing fast track, denying many consumers bankruptcy protection and stripping some federal workers of their union
rights. This is taking place at a time when "$7 trillion of workers' pension equity has gone up in smoke" and free trade is
destroying manufacturing sectors the USWA alone has lost 100,000 members in the last three years. "This is worth getting angry
about," he said.
"The Wall Street scandals are not a couple of rotten apples," Gerard declared. "The goddamned apple is
rotten to the core."
More money has been lost through Wall St. deception and unwarranted tax breaks in the last three months than would take to
fund a national health plan, the steelworkers' president said. He encouraged the Labor Party to go forward with its Just Healthcare
It would be "arrogant" and "wrong" for the LP to run candidates at this stage, he said, but the party
could make a contribution by working in the grassroots. "Prove that our vales are better than their values," Gerard said. The
labor, environmental, student, civil rights and social justice movements together "can topple government," the labor leader
said. "We need to build at the grassroots."
FLOC Pres. Baldemar Velasquez. Photo ©2002, Michael Kaufman
Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, drew on his 35 years' experience organizing
migrant agricultural workers to call for strategies of resistance and a culture of organizing. He also urged the internationalization of
the labor movement, so that U.S. unions can be "friends with the workers of the world."
Delegates gave a standing ovation to Lucy, a 15-year-old member of the FLOC delegation and a camp representative, who 10
days earlier had won a first grievance that restored to co-workers three days' pay.
Labor Party Pickets Chamber
On Eve of Fast-Track Vote
UE Gen. Sec. Treas. Bruce Klipple. &
Dir. of Org. Bob Kingsley
Hours before the narrow House of Representatives
vote for "fast track" trade promotion authority, some 500 delegates to the Labor Party΄s Second Constitutional Convention
took their fury over the disastrous effects of corporate-driven trade policies directly to its authors. Shouting "shame,"
delegates pointed fingers of blame at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the doorsteps of that organization's gold-gilt headquarters
near the White House.
The House approved by a 215-212 vote at 3:30 a.m.
Saturday, July 27. Trade promotion is contained in a 304-page trade bill that also includes authorization to expand NAFTA to 31
nations and limits on labor standards.
Late the previous afternoon, Labor Party convention
delegates took a break from their deliberations to march in an orderly fashion through the traffic-thick streets to the Chamber
headquarters. Chanting and waving freshly made placards, they made an unmistakable impression on tourists and lobbyists scrambling
to return home to the suburbs.
Delegates picketed the main entrance for several
minutes as one delegate observed, interrupting any "Happy Hour" plans entertained by Chamber officials before
"I went down to the rich man's house to take
back what he stole from me," sang Labor Party members from Oakland, Calif. and Philadelphia, Pa. outside the ornate doors
leading to one of the most powerful and prestigious bastions of business power. The Chamber headquarters sits across Lafayette Park
from the White House.
Speakers, including UE Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bruce
Klipple, denounced the Chamber role in trade policies that have wiped hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs. Klipple told
the crowd that, "Working people will not forget the role that the Chamber of Commerce, big business, President Bush, and
members of Congress from both parties played in the passage of fast track." The Labor Party leaders vowed to continue fighting
for fair trade policies and labor rights.
The Labor Party convention met from July 25-28.
Genl. Sec.-Treas. Klipple led a delegation that included rank-and-file leaders from Districts Two, Six and 11.
Hours before the narrow House of Representatives vote on behalf of "fast track" trade promotion authority,
delegates took their fury over the disastrous effects of corporate-driven trade policies directly to its authors. They marched in an
orderly fashion through Washington's traffic-thick streets to the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Shouting
"shame," delegates stood on the doorsteps of the Chamber's gold-gilt building to point fingers of blame. They picketed the
building's main entrance for several minutes as one delegate observed, interrupting the Chamber's "Happy Hour" plans
before rallying on the steps of a side entrance.
UE Gen. Sec. Treas. Bruce Klipple.
Speakers, including UE Genl. Sec.-Treas. Klipple, denounced the Chamber role in trade policies that have wiped hundreds of
thousands of manufacturing jobs.
The Labor Party's second Karen Silkwood Award went to Ken Riley, president of International Longshoremen's
Association Local 1422 and one of "The Charleston Five." These union dockworkers endured house arrest for a year and a half and
faced felony conspiracy charges; they were targeted by a conservative state attorney general with a political agenda. The court threw out
the unjust charges brought against them in connection with their local's fight for jobs.
Riley, who could not attend, was represented by ILA Vice Pres. Robert Ford. Speaking during the workers' rights
panel, Ford told the convention, "We have to be political, we have to educate each and every working person."
Karen Silkwood (1946-1974) lost her life in trying to save her union and protect the lives of her co-workers. She was
a member of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union.
The ailing Tony Mazzocchi, who worked with Silkwood as OCAW legislative director, made brief appearances at the
opening and closing sessions. The LP National Organizer was hailed by the Mineworkers Pres. Roberts at the opening session as "an
inspiration to many in the movement."
Mazzocchi spoke briefly and to the point near the convention's close. "We have to confront that corporate beast that
is seeking to consume all of us," the organizer said. "There are no viable alternatives but to build a working-class
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article and its sidebar were originally published
(without photos) as separate articles in our UE News Update section.