Consumer advocate Ralph Nader, introduced as "the shop steward of the American people," received a rapturous welcome when he addressed the convention.
His message endorsed the conventions work. "If labor settles for crumbs, theyre not even going to get crumbs," he declared.
Nader gave strong approval to the guidelines for electoral activity adopted by delegates. "Theres no point in going into the political arena if you dont know where youre going," he said.
Nader pointed out that working people have been losing ground while the gap between their wages and executive salaries grows ever greater. He denounced corporate welfare and called for tax dollars to be recycled to families in need and to communities throughout the country.
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.
THE AWFUL TRUTH
The Labor Partys "most satirical member" told delegates, "I want the Democrats and Republicans to merge into the one party they are and let us have our own party. People are desperately looking for an alternative. We can be that alternative," film maker Michael Moore insisted.
Moore reminded delegates that "the largest party is the non-voting party, the 50-60 percent of this country just waiting to be organized."
The satirist had a pointed message for those content to have a small but politically correct party garnering a minuscule percentage of votes: "Get over yourselves!"
"We really need to build this party," he stressed. "I want to see change in my lifetime. I want to make this a real party." As evidence, Moore turned over the first $10,000 royalty check from the paperback edition of his book Downsize This! to the Labor Partys educational arm.
Moore shared video clips from two TV projects: The Awful Truth, similar to his TV Nation series, will air on cables Bravo channel in April; the other, a sitcom co-produced by the makers of Seinfeld, was shelved by advertisers because of its anti-corporate content.
CHALLENGE CORPORATE POWER
"Working people need a party that represents the interests of working people," declared the conventions keynote speaker, Buzz Hargrove.
The president of the 215,000-member Canadian Auto Workers, Hargrove said the former "Asian Tigers" were a "model" of no rights for workers and no restrictions on capital. Those markets collapsed when "casino capitalists" pulled out, and workers are paying the price.
"Any political party that doesnt recognize this incredible abuse of power, and does not have a platform to deal with it, doesnt deserve the support of working people," Hargrove thundered.
Allowing capital to go where it wants is not in the best interest of working people, the auto workers leader said. "There is a class struggle going on, and we can make a difference."
United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts addressed the convention in support of the national Labor Party campaign for a Bill of Rights in the workplace. Recalling some of the militant battles waged by miners in this country, Roberts said: "We know the answer to workers problems in the U.S. is a stronger labor movement, where people have a legal right to speak out, to defend themselves, to health and safety."
Henry Nicholas, president of District 1199C and an AFSMCE vice president, proposed that union members go beyond the concerns of their individual union members to re-energize the labor movement.
The convention heard greetings and a denunciation of U.S. trade policies from United Steelworkers of America President George Becker. Although the Steelworkers have not endorsed the Labor Party, Becker came as the head of a Pittsburgh-based union to declare that the partys issues are his unions. "I want to applaud you for your efforts to advance the agenda of working people on all levels of society," he said.
UE News Labor Party Convention Coverage
From a UE perspective, here's a look at the Labor Party's First Constitutional Convention ...
Here are the event-by-event summaries distributed to the delegates attending the Labor Party's First Constitutional Convention.
Day One Summary
Day Two Summary
UE News - 12/98
-> UE News -> 1998
Archives -> Article