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Labor Party Considers
Electoral Strategy

PITTSBURGH

Labor Party Interim National Council Meets
UE Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark, California Nurses Pres. Kit Costello, Labor Party Organizer Tony Mazzocchi and Recording Sec.-Treas. Katherine Isaac at the Labor Party’s Interim National Council in June. Hosted by UE in Pittsburgh, the council meeting reviewed plans for the November Labor Party convention and guidelines for the party’s chapters. Clark and Costello are co-chairs of the council.

Two years ago last month, delegates to the Labor Party’s founding convention voted to do something very unconventional: They decided that their new political party would not — at least initially — run candidates for public office. Instead, delegates adopted a statement requiring the party to recruit and mobilize workers — and calling for the appointment of a special committee to develop a proposal for the party’s electoral activity.

That committee, which included UE Genl. Vice Pres. Carl Rosen, prepared a report late last year. The Labor Party’s leadership body, the Interim National Council, endorsed the draft electoral policy at its January meeting. Delegates to the party’s first constitutional convention, taking place this Nov. 13-15 in Pittsburgh, will have the final say as to whether, when, where and how the Labor Party should be on the ballot.

ACCOUNTABILITY

The report, as adopted by the INC, says: "The Labor Party will run candidates for office in order to elect representatives to positions where they can help enact and enforce laws and policies to benefit the working class... Unlike other political parties, public officials elected by the Labor Party will be accountable to the party membership and required to follow the positions outlined in the party platform...

"Although we accept electoral politics as an important tactic, we do not see it as the only tool needed to advance working class power...

"Labor Party candidates will be run only where our basic organizational criteria are met. The Labor Party will build into its electoral campaigns, and the periods between them, procedures to ensure political education and mobilization of the working class, further development of the party structure and growth in membership, and strengthened relationships to community and labor allies."

Under the draft electoral policy, "The Labor Party will support only candidates for office who are Labor Party members, running solely as Labor Party candidates. The Labor Party will not endorse any other candidates."

A committee appointed by the National Council will review all applications for electoral campaigns, with a review process allowing consultation and discussion. The National Council, which will have the final say on whether a campaign is appropriate, "will issue a statement of the types of districts that are a priority for LP electoral campaigns."

CRITERIA

This national committee will review electoral campaigns using criteria designed to ensure that they "can run credible campaigns to win office." "An electoral effort will not be blocked based on any single item not being met if there are sufficient strengths in other areas to overcome particular shortcomings."

Criteria for running candidates would include:

  • Support of a chartered state Labor Party.

  • Those proposing a campaign would prepare "a political impact statement that includes the economics and demography of the target district, the resources and politics of the incumbent, the nature of the opposition, the history of recent elections, the current political issues in the district and the level of working-class activism. The statement shall address how the campaign fits national LP priorities."

  • Sufficient campaign resources, including, sufficient volunteers to cover precincts, enough endorsing unions "to ensure that [the] LP candidate will be seen as the labor candidate," endorsements or support from local community organizations, a significant number of LP members, a credible candidate, campaign financing, a capable campaign manager and serious plan that includes tactics and goal for party growth.

Dave Campbell, who chaired the party’s electoral committee, told the Labor Party Press that he believes "the standards we set are high enough that they satisfy the unions that if we do get involved electorally, they will not be isolated in the labor movement. I think the standards we set will insure that there is significant labor support or else the campaign won’t happen. We want to run a campaign to win."

FINANCIAL, LEGAL CONSTRAINTS

The party’s National Council will develop guidelines, based on legal counsel, to ensure that Labor Party electoral campaigns meet the requirements of federal and state laws.

The Labor Party is unique among political parties in that its funding, so far, comes mostly from union treasuries; this money, in the form of affiliation fees and contributions, supports most of the Labor Party’s national staff. Members’ dues still represent only a modest portion of the party’s income.

Under federal election law, union treasury funds cannot be used to support candidates. State and local laws vary: Some states place no limit on the use of union treasury funds in a state or local election; others do.

In the event that the Labor Party decides to field a candidate for national office, the party will have to insure that all funds coming from union treasuries are strictly segregated, and that none of these funds are used to finance or in any way support a campaign. Similarly, the Labor Party must ensure that state and local Labor Party organizations raise their funds in strict compliance with federal, state and local laws.

(This article is based on a report in the May 1998 Labor Party Press.)

UE News - 07/98


Home -> UE News -> 1998 Archives -> Article

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