Between November 13 to 15, the U.S. Labor Party will have their convention in Pittsburgh to advance a program of action on Key Workers’ Issues. There will be 1,100 delegates, representing more than one million working people from international unions, union locals and community groups from most of the states in the Union.
The Labor Party, founded at a constitutional convention in Cleveland in 1996, has been endorsed by the United Mine Workers, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, the California Nurses Association and other unions and AFL-CIO local unions and regional bodies.
As a political party, it has fielded no candidates. The political philosophy of one of its energizers, long-time unionist Tony Mazzocchi, is that hundreds of discussions with working men and women are needed to forge an agenda that is rooted in past union successes. Drawing on the example of the GI Bill of Rights, the Party wants to shape our economy to provide workers with time to advance their education and talents before their later years.
To the Labor Party, there are few excuses for poverty, grinding and often dangerous workplace conditions, dead-end jobs, export of jobs following mass layoffs, other than the excessive concentration of power and wealth, which workers produced but benefit too little from.
Soon, the Labor Party will be ready to start fielding candidates in carefully selected areas. But for now a top priority is a national campaign for what it calls Just Health Care, followed by a legal right to a job, a foreign trade policy that protects workers and the environment, and labor law reform.
This is the first labor movement in years that vigorously seeks the repeal of the notorious Taft-Hartley law of 1947 that did more to impede the right to organize, and the right to help other workers in disputes with corporations than any legislation in post World War II American history.
As one who has read more than a few labor union newspapers, the Labor Party Press, a monthly publication, is a fresh breeze roasting corporate power abuses and outlining all the catching up that working people must achieve in the pursuit of their happiness and justice.
Two years ago, apart from generating headlines in Cleveland, the Labor Party’s founding convention was ignored by the national press, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. The then, excellent managing editor of the Times, Gene Roberts, acknowledged afterward that they goofed in missing this story. Now at the University of Maryland, Mr. Roberts informs us that there are only twenty full time newspaper reporters in the entire nation covering the labor beat.
Back in the Forties and Fifties, there were hundreds of such reporters. Labor stories, apart from strikes, are not considered front rank subjects for today’s expanded business pages of newspapers. Part of this problem comes from labor leaders who display an unusual passion for anonymity and rarely clamor for invitations on the Sunday television morning news shows or other forums. They seem to feel that the less news about their doings the better.
What with a still declining trade union membership overall in the U.S. (down to about 15% of the entire workforce) and with the new AFL-CIO leadership just beginning to fire up the imagination of a younger generation and initiate a media and a corporate accountability strategy, there is much for the Labor Party to do between elections.
If you are interested in the upcoming Convention in Pittsburgh or more information about the Labor Party, call 202-2345190 or write to P.O. Box 53177, Washington, DC 20009.