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Labor Party Convention Advances Worker Demands

By Stephanie Karamitsos |
September 1, 2002
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Protest signs against fast track
Participants from Labor Party convention protest at headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against legislation granting fast track authority to Bush. (Fight Back! News)

Washington D.C. - Fed up with the domination of the U.S. government by big corporations, workers came to Washington D.C. for the second convention of the Labor Party, July 25-28. Over 500 delegates, representing many thousands of workers from unions, worker organizations and Labor Party chapters, as well as at-large delegates, came to challenge corporate power and set a course for workers to have a voice in the halls of government.

The Democrat and Republican politicians have been doing the work of the big corporations. Speaking to the convention about the two major parties Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) said, "We don't know how bad we have been sold out by either group, but we know we have been sold out."

The Labor Party seeks to elect candidates that will speak to and work for the working class, the class that represents the overwhelming majority of the people of this country. One after the other, farm workers, janitors, schoolteachers, nurses, truck drivers and factory workers went to the microphone. Workers talking to workers. They hammered out a plan to build a party that will contend successfully against the two corporate parties, the Democrats and the Republicans.

The plan includes building a movement around the economic demands of working people. In the coming years, the Labor Party will focus on three campaigns: Just Health Care, Workers Rights and Free Higher Education. With the support of labor unions and activist workers, they hope to build a party that is strong enough to contend for office.

Just Healthcare is a movement for national health insurance for all people. Canada has such a system in place. So, it had an extra impact when Canadian Leo Gerard of USWA told the convention, "I can not imagine a bigger double-cross exists than this private, for profit rip-off at every stop health care system."

The Labor Party also calls for free higher education. Poor and working people should have the same access to this country's colleges and universities as the rich. The Labor Party has effectively drawn parallels to the G.I. Bill of Rights passed after World War II, which gave free higher education and a stipend to all returning veterans.

Also, the Labor Party has launched a campaign for workers' rights. If workers are to have any voice in the government, collectively or individually, the laws of this land need to be changed. Workers need the right to join and to build strong unions.

The Labor Party convention was a success by any measure. Yet the challenges ahead are daunting. The Labor Party looks to base itself in a labor movement that is under vicious attack by George Bush, the Republicans and sections of the Democratic Party. Liberal democrats will take huge contributions from unions, but when workers face a real fight, they do nothing, or go over to the other side.

Finally, the challenge to the working class is to transform our labor movement. The Labor Party will succeed if workers succeed in transforming labor unions - if the unions become the vehicles of class struggle instead of class collaboration. It is then that the trade union movement will see the need for an independent, workers' voice in government, a Labor Party.