Increasingly, America’s working families are questioning how well their interests and needs are being represented by the Democratic and Republican parties. And a lot of union members aren’t meekly accepting the apathy of the major parties. They are demanding action-and taking action on their own.
One of the most creative and effective vehicles for change and spurring efforts on important social and economic programs has been the formation of the Labor Party. The Labor Party was launched in Cleveland, Ohio in 1996 by more than 1,400 delegates from 250 international and local unions and AFL-CIO Councils and community organizations and is continuing to grow-despite the fact that it has received little notice in the “mainstream media.”
Today, the Labor Party is a growing national organization made up of international unions and thousands of local unions representing more than two million workers plus supporting organizations and individual members.
This month, the Labor Party, under the seasoned leadership of long-time unionist Tony Mazzocchi, celebrates its fifth anniversary in a variety of meetings and organizing drives in cities across the nation. These meetings will address actions that range from universal health care to workers’ safety to civil rights.
Mazzocchi doesn’t hide his disgust about the timidity and inaction of the major parties. His blunt assessment: “both the Democratic and Republican Parties have failed working people.”
“We have witnessed an industrial and social meltdown advanced by economic and trade policies designed by and for corporate and moneyed interests,” Mazzocchi writes in an open letter to supporters of the Labor Party. Indeed, Mazzocchi and the Labor Party note many of the policy failures raised by the Green Party in the 2000 election.
Among the failures cited by the Labor Party:
- Our decades-old health care crisis continues. More than 44 million people lack access to health care, and premiums for health insurance continue to rise.
- Under legislation granting China Permanent Normal Trade National Trade Relations (passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton) ultimately about 900,000 jobs in the U. S. will be lost.
- The wave of corporate mergers and acquisitions across national boundaries have continued unchallenged and, as a result, the nation is facing a growing concentration of global corporate power.
- The price for the North American Free Trade Agreement: 400,000 jobs lost and a 40 percent real wage drop for Mexican workers. Fast track legislation for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) is scheduled to be brought up in the Congress with active support of the Bush Administration.
- Rights guaranteed to all citizens-freedom of speech, of assembly, and association-are not fully available for American workers under restrictive labor laws like the Taft -Hartley Act. The nation has the smallest proportion of private sector workers covered by union contracts of any western democracy. Health and safety protections are declining as evidenced by the recent Congressional override of regulations to protect many workers from ergonomic injuries.
The Labor Party describes its vision as:
“An America where everyone who wants to work has a job at a living wage, where laws protect our rights to organize and strike, where the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share of taxes, where quality health care is a right and where solidarity puts an end to bigotry.”
The Labor Party has not run candidates for public office. Instead, it has focused on generating debate on the issues that affect working people. Mazzocchi’s efforts are challenging the major parties to summon up the courage to take tough stands for workers rights’ even if it means stepping hard on the toes of their corporate benefactors.
“I’m for a party that begins to create a tempo, that changes the nature of the political dialogue and, ultimately, will vie for electoral office, but that’s way down the line,” Mazzocchi said in an interview with the Multi-National Monitor.
The growing trend toward independent candidates and progressive third parties is furthered by the energies of the Labor Party on this fifth anniversary of their establishment.
(For more information on the Labor Party write: Tony Mazzocchi The Labor Party P.O. Box 53177 Washington, D. C. 20009)