NP Online News #9
At the AFL-CIO's executive council meetings in Los Angeles in February, the New Party made a presentation to the Committee on Political Education (COPE) on fusion, independent politics, the future of the republic, etc.
This was important and interesting, and maybe historic, so it warrants elaboration.
First, it provides a terrific boost in legitimacy. One of the obstacles to local NP affiliates recruiting labor participation is the fear among local unionists that this is not a legitimate approach to politics. This blows those fears (or excuses) out of the proverbial water. And it sends a signal to other social forces that labor is considering some new ways of orienting itself: a new strategy for a new millennium and all that.
And for the history buffs, we're still checking but it seems pretty certain that this was the first time in the history of the AFL-CIO (1955 merger), and perhaps the first time since the Knights of Labor met with the Populists in the 1880s that a new party has been officially invited to speak to the leaders of the American trade union movement.
Legitimacy and visibility aside, there is also the hard fact that we won't succeed without substantial involvement by organized labor. Whatever its shortcomings, it's still the largest and most important gathering place for ordinary people in America. Numerically, of course, the AFL-CIO is the largest working-class organization in the nation. It's also the largest black organization. It's also the largest women's organization. So while it's weak compared to the corporate class currently in the saddle, labor is an essential building block to our work.
On the presentation itself:
There were about 40 political directors and staff around the table, and another 60 or so people around the edges (State Federation presidents, communications staff, etc.). Bruce Colburn from Progressive Milwaukee/NP (and a labor leader in his day job) was introduced by COPE Director Steve Rosenthal, and then Bruce moderated the session. NP Chair Joel Rogers and I presented some overheads on fusion, offered general comments about the political moment and why labor should seriously think about independent political formations, and then took a lot of questions and comments.
Two clear positions emerged over the next 90 minutes. Several unions held the view that an independent, labor-friendly formation could tremendously increase union leverage vis-a-vis the Democrats. Interestingly, some folks also felt that it would allow them to reach members who are alienated from the Democrats but who retain economic populist views. Speaking against experimentation with independent structures were those who feel that "it's already hard enough to get our members out to vote, let alone vote on a new line." The overall reaction of those who spoke leaned slightly to the positive side, but only slightly. The majority of people didn't say anything, so we have our work cut out for us.
Follow-up plans include:
1. Meetings with the political directors of most of the major international unions and the national leadership and staff of the AFL-CIO.
2. Mirroring the national meetings at the local level. Most NP affiliates have labor outreach committees, and they are already busy talking with local bus drivers, nurses, teachers, autoworkers...
3. Getting on the agendas of state, regional and national union gatherings like legislative conferences, joint councils and conferences.
4. Generating appropriate letters and resolutions from local unions that will be a positive influence on their parent unions.
Finally, I should say a word about the guy in the back of the room who looked incredibly unhappy the entire time. He turned out to be Congressman Martin Frost of Texas, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He had to listen for almost 2 hours while the political directors of nearly every major union in America calmly discussed the New Party, fusion, and their dismay with the Democratic Party. Something tells me the DNC heard about this one.
NP National Organizer
A note from the national office: There are now a few thousand people on this listserve. If you think these are useful and informative, and by some quirk you are not a member of the New Party, we'd encourage you to actually join. You can do so on-line via our web site (www.newparty.org), but the easiest thing to do is to call us at 1-800-200-1294. We publish a good quarterly newsletter, as well as other materials, and it all costs money. Please join and help us build a movement for a real democracy and a fair economy in America.
Adam Glickman, Communications Director
227 West 40th St. Suite 1303
NY, NY 10018
web site: http://www.newparty.org/