Labor Advocate Online
KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, December 13, 2004
by Bill Onasch, webmaster, kclabor.org
Home Cooking Again
After a road trip lasting eleven days, covering about 2800 miles, with attendance at three major gatherings, my trusty UAW-built 1999 Ford Contour got me back home last night. It’s good to be enjoying home cooking, a familiar keyboard–and other household comforts again. I thank Carrie Hewitt, Adam and Sam Shils in Chicago, and Bob Mast in Detroit, for giving me first class accommodations in their homes. And, of course, I should acknowledge the many contributions of Mary Erio in making this trip possible.
This "Fortnight In Review" is a brief initial report on the meetings I attended as well as reestablishing the rhythm of our regular Week In Review column. I will have more to say about the USLAW and Labor Party INC meeting in future articles.
Starting Tuesday, December 14, we will resume our Daily Labor News Digest updates.
US Labor Against the War Leadership Assembly
USLAW is a remarkable success story in at least four ways:
It has organized principled labor opposition to a shooting war in progress on a scale unprecedented in American history. More than a hundred union and labor-based organizations have affiliated and USLAW organized passage of strong antiwar resolutions at national conventions of such major unions as SEIU and CWA, as well as state feds such as California, Wisconsin, and Washington.
In a welcome departure from organized labor’s often shady past, it has worked in a spirit of genuine internationalism. Early on USLAW started making contact with, and raising material support for the heroic trade union movement emerging in Iraq--despite attempts by the U.S. occupation to suppress them.
It has nurtured a growing network of labor activists who are searching for a new future for American labor.
It is a positive example of "bottom-up" building in the labor movement. USLAW was formed by a few dozen labor activists responding to a resolution by a single local union–Teamsters 705 in Chicago–in January, 2003. It has been "boot-strapping" all the way.
The December 4 Leadership Assembly was attended by about 135, delegates from affiliated organizations or observers prepared to recommend affiliation to their labor body. The first question posed to them by the outgoing steering committee was "should USLAW continue in business?" That was one of the few points in the gathering where there was enthusiastic unanimity.
The agenda centered on a "Plan of Work" proposed by the steering committee which focused on:
development of USLAW as a coalition
Building the peace movement within labor and labor’s presence within the peace movement.
Connecting the war in Iraq to the war on workers at home.
In a future article I will deal in greater detail with the rich discussion and important decisions that came out of this ambitious agenda point. For now I want to concentrate on immediate needs to implement the work the body projected.
To assist the two original, tireless, unpaid national co-conveners, Gene Bruskin and Bob Muehlenkamp, Nancy Wohlforth, a leader in OPEIU and Pride At Work, was designated to that post as well. In addition, one or two people of color will be ratified by the steering committee in the near future.
To deal with increasing organizational opportunities and demands the budget adopted provides for full-time, and half-time paid staff.
For this expanded budget to work means stepping up fund-raising through additional affiliations, and financial and in-kind contributions from supporting organizations. A good start was made at the meeting with SEIU contributing 50,000 and CWA 10,000 dollars. Numerous other smaller pledges from assembled groups got us off on the right foot.
Individual membership is also an important resource. If you are not a current member of USLAW you can sign up online by clicking here.
I accepted an assignment to help coordinate USLAW’s educational resources–our "Toolbox." Because that will require a lot of time I decided not to run for reelection to the USLAW steering committee though, at the chapter’s pleasure, I will continue to represent Kansas City Labor Against the War on the leadership council that includes representatives from all affiliates.
Labor Party Interim National Council
The 2004 election campaign–which seemed interminable–was a tough period for the Labor Party. Virtually the entire labor movement was focused almost solely on electing John Kerry and was not open to any other political discussion. So it was logical for the first post-election gathering of the Labor Party INC to pose the same question as the USLAW meeting began with: do we want to continue this project? The answer was the same resounding "yes!"
We were not about to give up the considerable past accomplishments of crafting an excellent program for working class political struggle, a principled approach to electoral politics, and a perspective of building a mass working class party rooted in the unions while also creating community units open to all.
We were proud of our newspaper, Labor Party Press.
Even during the worst conditions the party was able to promote its Just Health Care , Free Higher Ed and Worker Rights campaigns. National organizer Mark Dudzic made presentations on the health care issue to union gatherings, and the Meeting the Challenge conference in St Paul. The Merced, California Labor Party chapter, in collaboration with the League of Women Voters, sponsored a successful panel–along with a short play–on health care in September. The party’s chapter in Gainesville, Florida has a local Committee of 100 going to work for Just Health Care. The Ohio Labor Party is playing a leading role in a giant petition project aimed at establishing a single-payer system in that state. Just after the election Adolph Reed spoke to a series of successful meetings in the Twin Cities about Free Higher Ed--initiated by Labor Party members, with a wide range of labor and academic co-sponsors.
Mark Dudzic’s article, After the Elections: What Next?, set the tone for our discussion. I had a chance to meet with Labor Party members in Chicago and Detroit on the way to the Washington INC meeting. Like those in Kansas City, they strongly agreed with Dudzic’s statement, "We must build a Labor Party out of the ashes of this election." One relatively new member in Detroit declared that far from being depressed we should be optimistic about the prospects of the Labor Party. This sentiment could be felt among the INC as well.
The Labor Party is positioned to make a strong contribution to the discussion now raging within the labor movement in the wake of Kerry’s defeat--and the certainty of unprecedented attacks on working people as Bush spends his "political capital." We should find a wider hearing than ever before among leaders and activists not only in the labor movement but in social movements as well.
With a renewed sense of commitment the INC discussed how to relaunch the Labor Party project. Now that our affiliates are no longer weighed down with the burden of Kerry’s race we expect to once again involve them in Labor Party issue campaigns. We want to convince some of our "fallen away" individual members to rejoin us in our efforts. And we are confident that as we join in debates, write articles, distribute our paper and other literature, hold public events, and participate in the various mass movements, we will find many fresh recruits to the effort to build a party of our own.
There are some similarities between the USLAW and Labor Party projects. Each are based on both affiliated unions and individual members. Both, unfortunately, are hard pressed for money. While organized labor dumped more than a quarter of a billion dollars on Kerry’s Bush Lite fiasco, the Labor Party has had to make do on less than one percent of that amount. The Labor Party project urgently needs–and richly deserves–money and in-kind support from our unions if we are to provide a political party we can truly call our own.
Concurrently with our political projects we have to learn to pay our own way. We won’t have an H Ross Perot, a George Soros, or even a Ben or Jerry as angels. Bosses support boss parties–workers must pay for workers’ parties. A rejuvenated party means many more affiliations are needed, many more individual members must be signed up, and state and local party bodies have to find ways to finance our own activities.
If you are not already a member of the Labor Party I urge you to join us. In the long run this is the only hope for the future of working people.
Cross Border Tour
The Cross Border Network For Justice and Solidarity is organizing a tour to Reynosa, Rio Bravo and Valle Hermoso in the State of Tamaulipas, Mexico, January 5-9. This is not for tourists. The goal is to see first-hand what corporate dominated globalization means for Mexico and what our future will be if we don’t work together to stop the race to the bottom. $400 includes: transportation by car from Kansas City, travel, food, and lodging (double) in Mexico. There are also air options for folks around the country to meet up with the Kansas City group in McAllen, Texas. For more information contact Judy Ancel, firstname.lastname@example.org or 913-677-2158.
That’s all for this fortnight.
Regards to all