The Prism

Labor Party Goes to Work

by Jeremy Raw

"Join the Labor Party!"

That was the message repeated again and again at a public meeting sponsored by the Carolina Socialist Forum on October 26 to discuss the newly-formed Labor Party (LP). The audience of 75 responded enthusiastically to the speakers: Adolph Reed (professor and LP activist), Ajamu Dillahunt (union activist and Black Workers For Justice [BWFJ] organizer), and Rich Corrance (LP chapter leader in Greensboro). They reviewed the history, program, and strategy of the LP.

Reed reported that the LP's founding convention in June brought out 1375 delegates, representing a total of over 1.4 million workers. The program endorsed there is a comprehensive vision of a just and humane future for working people. Dillahunt pointed out that the program in its entirety was decisively influenced by the concerns of people of color, who were not just segregated into some "civil rights" committee. Despite its origins in organized labor, the LP chose to grant equivalent status to "worker-supportive" organizations like BWFJ, thus acknowledging that most minority workers are not in unions. Corrance emphasized the need to fight together for the national program, as well as to develop significant local issues, arguing that unity of action "is the most profound unity we need."

The LP does face some difficult issues. Up to now, it has been bankrolled by union funds, which the Taft-Hartley act forbids being used to influence elections. As a result, the LP will not endorse or run candidates before 1998. Getting into the electoral process directly means the LP will have to develop an independent funding base by getting many individual members to sign up. The question of whether to run independent candidates or to pressure within the Democratic party still has not been resolved.

The audience raised questions regarding the LP's positon on abortion (it supports access to a full range of reproductive health options, but stops short of defending a right to abortion), and the defense budget (it supports a transition away from military contracts but not directly for reductions in defense spending). In each case, the panelists argued, the aim is not some perfect standard, but to build a foundation for step-by-step organizing. The LP, Reed said, "gives us a vehicle for creating the kind of labor movement we need."

Among the key provisions of the LP program (which fills a brochure larger than a typical issue of the Prism) are: guaranteeing everyone a job at a living wage; two months severance pay for every year of service for laid off workers; restored rights to organize, bargain and strike; an end to all forms of discrimination; universal access to quality health care, including reproductive health; a 32-hour week for 40 hours pay, a paid year off work for every seven years employment, and paid leave for child or elder care; free, quality education through college; an end to all corporate tax breaks; an end to dependence on regressive taxes like property or sales taxes, and a demand that the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes; an end to corporate domination of elections; a just transition movement to protect both jobs and the environment; worker inspections to enforce safety and health regulations; and many more.

It costs $20 to join the LP ($10 for students and unemployed people). Contact the Labor Party, Box 53177, Washington, DC 20009 to join or for further information or a copy of the complete party program.

Jeremy Raw is a member of the Labor Party.

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