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The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Urgent Need to Break the Grip of the Two-Party System

Statement by the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party (UPP) and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) 

The United States, the global epicenter of capitalist inequality, has become in fact the global epicenter of disease and death. After 40 years of cutbacks and relentless efforts to destroy everything the working class has been able to build over a century and a half of struggle, we are confronted now with a triple-layered crisis: public-health, financial and political.

On the Public-Health Front: A Vulnerable Nation

The nationwide cuts to public-health budgets have been drastic, and they have been bipartisan. To give just one defining example: In California, a state with Democrats at the helm, per-capita public-health spending has been cut by 18% since 2008, essential public hospitals closed, and funding slashed for two state programs designed specifically for a statewide response in case of an epidemic emergency.

At the same time, 28 million working people nationwide remain without healthcare insurance, while an additional 59.6 million people are under-insured. The unjust character of the U.S. healthcare system was on full display with the recent death of a 17-year-old boy in Lancaster, Calif., who had been infected with COVID-19 and was turned away from a private hospital for lack of health insurance. The boy died shortly afterwards from septic shock. 

“Apocalytic” captures the situation described by medical personnel trying to cope with the situation at New York’s Elmhurst Hospital without essential protective gear and equipment. 

As these lines were written, 305 died in New York City in just one day (one person every 4.7 minutes), and Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that the City would run out of ventilators to keep people alive in a matter of a few days. 

It has been scarcely more than one month ago, Feb. 29, that the first U.S. death was reported. By April 3, the Center for Disease Control counted 5,443 U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19. At 239,279, the U.S. ranks first in the world in the number of confirmed cases, and this at a time when test kits still remain largely unavailable. The actual number of people who contract the virus, including those who remain asymptomatic, never will be known.

On the Financial Front: Bail out Main Street, NOT Wall Street!

Both parties of Big Business — the Democrats and Republicans — created the conditions for the rapid spread of this pandemic. They are using it to enrich their corporate sponsors, and will pass the costs of stabilizing their profit system onto the working class. The $2 trillion “stimulus” packet is in essence a corporate bailout, with massive tax loopholes, forgivable loan terms, and provisions for increased deregulation and privatization. It features an unregulated $454 billion corporate slush fund to be administered by the Federal Reserve Board in conjunction with BlackRock, the financial corporation that bailed out Wall Street (not Main Street) during the 2007-2008 recession and that is destroying pension plans, jobs and public services the world over.

Leaders of the twin parties of the bosses tied the corporate bailout to the direct payments to workers and the unemployed with the full knowledge that the stimulus package would promote massive corporate consolidation and would further restructure the economy in favor of Wall Street and Big Business. 

There also was agreement to exclude the 22 million non-citizens from the payments and protections in the package. In fact, it is estimated that 140 million people living in or close to poverty will not get close to adequate funding to weather the pandemic. Their lives are at risk.

The $2 trillion “stimulus” packet, however, is just the tip of the bailout iceberg. The Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, quickly allocated no less than $4.2 trillion to bail out the banks and investors, already flush with cash reserves from near-zero interest rates and the Trump tax cut. The Fed has promised to do more if needed and for as long as necessary.

Meanwhile, a record 6.6 million workers filed for unemployment the last week of March. The real number of unemployed is actually much higher. Economists predict that the unemployment rate could shoot up to 30% in the coming months. 

We know already to whom the two parties of the bosses will turn to bear the brunt of keeping capitalism intact unless we wage a united fightback in coordination with the unions and organizations of the oppressed communities. The working class still is reeling from the 2008 bailout. Whether Democrats or Republicans are in power, the mantra will be that there are no funds to pay for essential social services, education, healthcare, and other public benefits. Employer-provided healthcare benefits, in particular, will be eliminated or the cost thrust onto workers since the insurance industry already has projected a 40% increase in rates. Wages, let alone wage increases and pension benefits, will be on the chopping block, too.

On the Political Front: A Bankrupt Two-Party System

Under cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, finance capital is working overtime to block the rising movements for environmental justice; healthcare as a human right (Medicare for All); a living wage for all; full labor, civil and democratic rights; and equality. 

Joe Biden, a candidate beholden to Wall Street, is on the verge of being anointed the party’s presidential nominee, after a concerted effort by the party leadership to smash the progressive challenge from within its ranks. At a time when the bankruptcy of the current heathcare system has been exposed for all to see, Biden announced that if elected president, he would veto any Medicare for All bill that came to his desk!

It is likely that the Democratic National Committee will cancel the July Milwaukee convention and declare Biden its nominee, sharpening the political crisis and improving vastly the chances of Trump’s re-election.

Instead of promoting peace and international solidarity to fight COVID-19, the twin parties of war have increased sanctions on countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, causing further hardship and death to innocent civilians. In yet another desperate move, the Trump administration, without a word of protest from the Democrats, has raised bogus charges against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in its determined effort to foster regime change.  

“Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” Organizing Meeting

In the face of a massive corporate assault that has been heightened by the pandemic, workers are fighting back; in fact, they are fighting for their very lives. The resurgent, fighting spirit on the shop floors and in workplaces across the country of the past two years is being expressed in nationwide wildcat strikes and other job actions by workers demanding protective gear and safe working conditions denied them by unscrupulous employers. 

The list of wildcat strikes is growing by the day. Those involved include Instacart, Amazon and Whole Food workers across the country; nurses in Watsonville, Calif.; sanitation workers in Pittsburgh; ironworkers in Maine’s shipyards; bus drivers in Detroit; Fiat-Chrysler workers in Warren, Mich.; McDonalds workers in Illinois; grocery-store workers in McAllen, Texas; and poultry workers in Georgia. The list goes on.

In oppressed communities across the United States, the same fighting spirit continues to take on evictions and gentrification, police brutality, and mass incarceration (targeting Black and Brown people disproportionately). In Chicago, tenants unable to pay their rent came together to organize a rent strike. 

In Baltimore, a city where 30% of households live on an income of less than $25,000 a year, residents unable to pay their water bills are fighting back. Home owners are particularly outraged by the fact that major corporations and new developments in gentrified sections of the city have not been made to pay their water utility bills for years, while hundreds of homes were taken from low-income people for owing the city taxes or utility bills, thereby pushing Black and working class families out of the city to facilitate gentrification. 

The fight in defense of undocumented immigrants and prisoners’ rights also has stepped up. Appeals and actions, framed in both health and political terms, are growing to demand the closure of the immigrant detention centers and the release of all detainees, as well the release of prisoners from the over-crowded jails.

The current pandemic shows no sign of letting up any time soon in the United States, so given the restrictions on face-to-face conferences, our usual ways of building opposition and seeking justice will have to continue electronically at this time. We cannot take a break from promoting the desperately needed effort to jettison the two old parties of Big Business on our way to building a just society. 

In early March, the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party, and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) issued a call for a national conference to “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System.” The conference was slated to take place in Baltimore on July 31 to August 2, 2020. [See Conference Call attached.]

To prepare this conference (which may have to be held via webinar or zoom), the three sponsoring organizations will be holding an expanded Baltimore Conference Organizing Meeting on April 25, 2020. 

If you are interested in participating in this Organizing Meeting to help us promote the political orientation and aims of the Baltimore conference as outlined in the attached call to “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System,” please contact us as soon as possible at the email address above or at baltimorefightback@gmail.com. 

Our goal is to bring together unionists and community activists who support the Baltimore Conference Call and who are willing to join us in organizing a united fightback in our workplaces and communities and in projecting that fightback into the political arena by laying the groundwork for an independent working-class party rooted in the unions and the communities of the oppressed.

Why We Will Be Attending the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” Conference — and Why You Should Too

(titles listed for id. only)

Nancy Wohlforth, Secretary-Treasurer Emerita, OPEIU (AFL-CIO)

(Washington, DC)

The time is now to begin laying the groundwork of an independent, labor-based political party. Two resolutions adopted by the national convention of the AFL-CIO in October 2017 are our reference point. The first one states, “Whether the candidates are elected from the Republican or Democratic Party, the interests of Wall Street have been protected and advanced, while the interests of working people have generally been set back.” The second convention resolution talks about the need “to break with lesser of two evils” and to “create a Labor-based Political Party.” Breaking the grip of the two-party system can’t wait. It is our task. The method and conceptual framework adopted by LCIP to get the ball rolling is a good one; it’s a method that will open doors for this work within the trade union movement.

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Ajamu Baraka, National organizer, Black Alliance for Peace

(Washington, DC)

Building an independent labor party is both timely and historically necessary. The “Break the Grip” national conference will move us in this direction by engaging in a serious discussion of why we need such a party and what are the obstacles before us. From our point of view as BAP, such an independent party cannot ignore or marginalize the issues of imperialism and militarism; these are working-class issues. We will also need to engage in the electoral process, starting at the local level, and develop a strong presence in the broader social movements — in the struggles involving labor, and the working class in general. We look forward to a strategic discussion about how we move forward in forging this new political formation.

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Millie Phillips, Steering Committee, Labor Fightback Network

(Berkeley, Calif.)

In this election season, the focus is on the presidential race; a choice between a sociopathic wannabe dictator and a “neoliberal” warmonger who won’t even support Medicare for All. This is not a choice anyone should have to make. If working-class people had our own political party and could elect our own representatives accountable to us and not to corporate lobbyists, we wouldn’t be in such a dire situation. We must start efforts now to build a new party — an independent working-class party rooted in the trade unions and communities of the oppressed — focusing at the local level and building upward, so that we have a choice to vote for what we want and need, rather than what little we can get. We need to start now. Join us September 19 and 20 for the online “Break the Grip” national conference.

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Nnamdi Lumumba, Co-convener, Ujima People’s Progress Party

(Baltimore, Md.)

The discussion around an independent labor party based on the unions and oppressed communities has been in the works for some time. This is because we have not seen any political party coming forward to represent our interests. We want to have a discussion at the “Break the Grip” conference about how best to build a national labor party, and in Maryland, how best to build a Black worker-led political party. It’s important for Black workers to define our relationship to the workers’ movement. We are struggling for Black liberation on our own terms. We want to be able to talk honestly about what it will take to move forward and build a working-class movement that doesn’t use Black and Brown peoples to advance itself but then leaves us in the lurch.

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Donna Dewitt, Steering Committee, Labor Fightback Network; Co-Chair, South Carolina Labor Party; President Emeritus, South Carolina AFL-CIO (Charleston, S.C.)

“The bosses have two parties. We need one of our own.” The continuing affronts on the country’s workers and their families has given voice to a diverse community reeling from the impacts of  pandemic, increasing police violence and police murders of minorities, environmental injustices, centuries of injustices, and other unprecedented challenges. An empowered movement is rising from the current struggles and pains of history, striving to bridge the gaps of cultural differences and forge a party of principles, a party of leaders, not politicians. From local community issues to national priorities, now is the time to build and give a cumulative voice to the concerns of working America. Join us for the “Break the Grip of the Two Party System” national conference on September 19th & 20th!     

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Chris Silvera, Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 808

(Long Island City, N.Y.)

COVID-19 has revealed once again the failure of either major political party to pass a stimulus bill that benefits working class-people, providing instead a massive bailout to the ruling class and corporations. Just two years ago, trillion-dollar tax cuts were given to the ruling class, and they are still in need of a bailout. Really? Capitalism is dying. Organized labor must recognize that it is time to separate from the parties of the bosses. Labor must begin to mobilize its masses and invest in organizing essential, non-union workers. These workers are exhibiting great degrees of bravery and militancy in the face of their experience with the wanton disregard for their health and safety.  We must re-allocate the millions of dollars wasted on political parties each year toward this vital organizing drive.

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E.J. Esperanza, immigrant rights attorney

(San Francisco, Calif.)

The problems facing working-class people have seldom been more dire, and seldom has the need for a truly independent working-class political party been more necessary. Nowhere is this question more pressing than in the immigrant community. There is no question in the immigrant community about the real threat presented by the Trump administration. We know – we’ve spent every waking hour fighting it. But there is also a growing awareness that the Democrats are no “lesser evil.” The Democrats created the deportation regime under which we are living today. Obama and Biden deported nearly 3 million immigrants in eight years. No effort to build an independent working-class party will be successful without tapping into the fight for immigrant rights and making this fight central to its formation, in deeds as well as words. I look forward to joining in this fight for an independent working-class party. Let’s seize this opportunity.

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Clarence Thomas, Retired member, ILWU Local 10

(Oakland, Calif.)

The Bay Area International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) locals have spearheaded the formation of a broad coalition to prevent the privatization of the Port of Oakland, Calif., which would destroy thousands of longshore and other union jobs, and drive thousands of Black families out of West Oakland in a massive gentrification onslaught.  One of our major obstacles in this effort is the Democratic Party, not to mention the unions that remain tied at the hip to the Democrats. They have joined forces with the real-estate moguls and developers to push through this corporate, racist, neo-liberal scheme. We in the ILWU have embraced the slogan of the Million Worker March: “Mobilizing In Our Own Name.” There is a strong need for independent politics. We will not be fully effective if we don’t run our own candidates to champion this struggle. We have to strike while the iron is hot.

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Connie White, Labor Party advocate

(Los Angeles, Calif.)

One of the major problems that I saw with the Labor Party in the 1990s is that it did not break with the Democratic Party. The Labor Party that we seek to build today must position itself in opposition to the Democratic Party, and it must participate in the electoral process. This should be a minimum strategy. One of the reasons that I joined Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) is because I believe that the Labor Party should be built from the ground up, not from the top down. I don’t believe it should start out running a presidential candidate, but I definitely think that a strategy for power must include running candidates for the House of Representatives. This should be a goal as we help to promote and build the Labor Party in the United States. The “Break the Grip” conference should point us in this direction. Please join us.

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Baldemar Velasquez, President, FLOC (AFL-CIO)

(Toledo, Ohio)

I would like to extend my greetings, and that of all FLOC members, to all those who are organizing the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” national conference. We appreciate the work you are doing to revitalize the Labor Party movement. We’re in solidarity with you. We as FLOC are taking action ourselves because we know that the federal government is not going to do anything for us, and nor will they enforce any standards, assuming they do set standards. Our independent electoral work is also important to us. We’re expanding our base and educating around why we need an independent voice in the electoral arena. We cannot continue to rely on people who don’t know the reality of workers and community members, especially those who are on the front lines.

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Berthony Dupont, Editor, Haiti Liberté 

(Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Today, in the face of this COVID-19 pandemic, Haitian workers need to build their own organization: a Workers Party. Only this tool is capable of enabling them not only to resist against the bosses but also to defend their own interests for the construction of another society — a society that will not defend the banks and the companies of the bosses but will be at the service of the workers, the youth, the peasants, the country and humanity in general. The same is true in the United States, the heartland of U.S. imperialism, where building a Labor-based party — a Workers Party— is an urgent need. I look forward to a productive “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” national conference and urge labor and community activists to attend.

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Sandy Eaton, Former Chair, Legislative Council, National Nurses United 

(Quincy, Mass.)

Democracy is too important to leave to the Democratic Party and its ways. The Democrats paved the way for the multi-layered crisis we are witnessing today. Bill Clinton was called upon to get NAFTA passed. He went on to balance the budget on the backs of our most vulnerable. Together with Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich in the House, he managed to devastate the gains that the working class and its allies had been able to wrest over decades. Our public health infrastructure was devastated. It’s about class rule. We have well-heeled enemies. That is why we have to build an independent political force. Toward that end, we will be meeting online September 19 and 20 at the “Break the Grip” conference. Please join us.

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Bill Leumer, Former President, International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local 565

(San Francisco, Calif.)

The working class today in the U.S. is not organized as a class because being organized as a class requires an independent political party of the working class. The  “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” conference is a step in the direction of winning working people from the stranglehold of the two parties of corporate America. The employers use these two parties as weapons against us. We working people need a party of our own so that we can fight back effectively and free ourselves from a system that only seeks to exploit us for profit.

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Alan Benjamin, OPEIU Delegate to SF Labor Council; Editorial Board, The Organizer Newspaper

(San Francisco, Calif.)

As the economic crisis deepens, with a major Depression in sight, we read in the financial press that mass layoffs and drastic cuts to social spending will be needed to pay back the trillions of dollars of debt incurred by the 2020 Wall Street “stimulus” bailouts. In fact, the corporate assault on working people has already begun. The labor movement should be demanding: No Layoffs, No Cuts!; Tax the Rich!; Fund a Marshall Plan-scale Public Works Program (to put the 36 million unemployed people to work in union jobs, at union scale)!; Medicare for All, Now!; Slash the War Budget to Fund Human Needs!; Defund the Police and End Systemic Racism! — among other such demands. Affirming labor’s independence in our workplaces must go hand in hand with affirming labor’s independence in the electoral arena, beginning at the local level in alliance with the communities of the oppressed. Promoting this dual effort must be a task of the “Break the Grip” conference.

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Don Bryant, NALC Branch 40 Retired, LFN Steering Committee, LCIP Organizer

(Cleveland, Ohio)

We should be talking about expanding our democracy, not limiting it. We should be talking about what we can have, not what the plutocracy won’t give back. This nation has never been a beacon of freedom and democracy as has been pronounced since its inception. This lie is now festering as COVID 19 rages and our racist history plays out in modern-day lynchings by cops and vigilantes (still), bringing a new and sustained uprising that won’t go back. Accepting the lesser of two evils in our candidates has gotten us nowhere, and it has watered down our social contract to eviction notices and death certificates for far too many; it’s gotten pretty expensive too with Pentagon annual budgets now exceeding $700 billion annually, supported by the duopoly for decades. Talking about reforming the parties is fruitless when we really must reform the system by widening the political field and raising a party that truly represents the working class and the millions of people struggling under poverty and oppression.

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David Keil, Political activist

(Boston, Mass.)

I’m a union activist and socialist who belongs to the Mass. Teachers Association (delegate to the 2020 MTA and MSCA/state-university conventions) and to the Green Party of the US. We need desperately to build toward a mass labor party, a mass party of the working class. The conference sponsored by LCIP and other groups is an important step toward that goal. 

Working people in 2020 are facing loss of their income, their health, their kids’ education, and even the democratic right to elect their leaders. The reality and the threat of bipartisan imperialist war hang over us. The Republicans are falling into an authoritarian, racist abyss, but the Democrats offer no solution. It is clearer and clearer that the issues of 2020 will be decided in the streets. These issues are political, but we lack a party of the working class. The October 19 conference will offer ways to move in that direction.

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Daniel Reif, Youth activist 

(Los Angeles, Calif.)

The call for working class and impoverished people to break the grip of the two-party system is a tradition famous to the organized American left. As a young member of the Labor and Community for an Independent Party, I continue tradition, but my age affords new perspectives on that practice.

My generation of young voters are the least confident in corporate Democratic politics, championing a Post-Ferguson/Post-Bernie insurgency movement at the down-ballot level in a radically motivated effort to command that future elected officials be accountable to the people. Unfortunately, class-consciousness teaches us that this effort will inevitably lead the neoliberal bourgeoise and the oppressed lower classes to vote together, compromising their distinctly separate interests.

It’s time to capitalize on a pivotal moment for our famous practice and create a strong electoral future for the working class. This mission begins at the LCIP’s Break The Grip conference on September 19th and 20th, where I wish to see you.

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Michael Carano, Unionist and political activist

(Tallmadge, Ohio)

Crappy jobs. Low wages. Mass unemployment. Endless wars.  Regime change. Monumental student debt.  No health “care” but bankruptcy priced health “insurance.”  Black brothers and sisters gunned down on the street with impunity. Deportations. Splitting of families. These failures that impoverish and disempower the working class have a reason — that reason is the two parties that work in unison to prevent change.

Let’s quit doing the same thing and getting the same results. Forge a new path. It requires effort. We must build a party oriented to working people that aligns with our vision, where labor and community candidates sharing that vision actually do the bidding of their base, unlike the two-party corporate vultures that leave bone-dry scraps for the masses.

Join the Labor and Community for an Independent Party’s call to participate in the Break the Grip of the Two-Party System Conference, Sept 19-20.  Virtually gather with community organizers and Labor activists (virtually) to forge a path forward to create a party where the needs of workers and community are center to a path we build in good conscience.

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Desiree Rojas, President, Sacramento Chapter, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, LCLAA/AFL-CIO

(Sacramento, California)

I look forward to attending the Break the Grip conference. This is a moment in our history where there is a great need to discuss and reach an understanding on what it will take to re-invent our politics, and to re-think where labor fits in.

We need to figure out how we can best organize and mobilize for a future in which workers and their families can have a healthy life, a good job with a living wage and benefits, universal healthcare coverage from cradle to grave, and clean water and clean food. We cannot accept being enslaved by this capitalist system, which is destroying all living things on the planet.

So I am going to be present because I feel that it is important to engage and share ideas, and to create a platform that we can use as a blueprint to move forward in building our own independent voice and finding solutions to the existing problems of today.

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Kali Akuno, Executive Director, Cooperation Jackson

(Jackson, Mississippi)

I look forward to attending the LCIP conference on independent politics. What has been happening over the past six years inside the Democratic Party and to the efforts to reform the party prove that we need our own independent political voice.

We’ve seen the Bernie campaign make some good social and political gains in terms of educating lots of folks, but it ran into a concrete wall of neoliberal Democrats and the DNC. This underscores the historical limitations of this party and its role in killing social movements.

A large part of this is because working-class and oppressed people have not built our own institutions. And it’s not that we haven’t built them, it’s that they have been blocked, they’ve been destroyed. We have to build our own, so that we can speak in our own voice, so that we can represent and advance our own interests. The liberals don’t have our interests and perspectives in mind. They’re not going to represent our interests. We have to do this ourselves. And it starts with us building our own independent politics, our own independent political vehicles.

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Mya Shone, National Organizing Committee, Socialist Organizer

(Vallejo, California)

Many of us realized a couple of years ago, along with other labor and community activists, that the best way to forge a working-class party independent of the one big property party with two names was to join the specific struggles of oppressed communities with the struggles in the workplace most defined by organized labor — that is, root the party itself in labor and oppressed communities.

We also realized that the most effective way to create a working-class party would be to lay the foundation for the party in our local communities where our struggles take place most often. This way we can build local labor-community coalitions that would craft programs based upon local struggles and select candidates for office coming from the community and beholden to the platform and coalition. It is a building-block approach — organize the democratic structure from the base on up.

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Al Rojas, Vice President, Sacramento chapter, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, LCLAA / AFL-CIO; National Coordinator, Driscoll’s Boycott Campaign

(Sacramento, California)

We are living in a dangerous time. Workers’ rights are under heavy attack. Their welfare and that of their families are under attack. Just this past week, nine workers died from COVID-19, and 358 others tested positive, in a Foster Farms chicken-processing plant in California’s Central Valley. Infected workers were forced to come to work. “The company doesn’t care about workers; they only care about money,” stated one of the workers. Statements like this are being made by millions of workers in the fields, meat-packing plants, warehouses, and factories across the country.

California’s Democratic governor refused to meet with a LCLAA delegation to hear our life-and-death concerns as Latino workers. Our state’s politicians are basically protectors of the agricultural corporate industry.

The same corporate assault, relayed by both capitalist political parties, is being carried out with NAFTA 2.0 — a bipartisan corporate “free trade” agreement. Workers are being exploited; they, too, are dying on the job in U.S.-owned plants — from the maquilas along the border to GM in Silao, Guanajuato. There is no real and effective enforcement mechanism in this agreement to protect workers.

The Break the Grip conference is extremely important. We need to let it all out, especially regarding this trade agreement.

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Jerry Levinsky, Steering Committee, Labor Fightback Network, (Amherst, Mass.)

 

The development of the Labor and Community for an Independent Party initiative arrives as the inability of the two major parties to minimally meet the needs of millions of people throughout the United States has reached catastrophic proportions. Building a working-class political movement — starting at the local level, through organizing and education, in order to deepen the connection between labor and community — is the way forward.

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Linda Thompson, Retired unionist, Green Party member

(Framingham, Mass.)

I am an AFSCME Retiree who served in many leadership positions in my locals in Chicago and Baltimore and am a member of the MA Green Rainbow Party. A Gallup Poll in 2014 showed that a majority of U.S. adults, 58%, say a third U.S. political party is needed because the Republican and Democratic parties “do such a poor job” representing the American people. 71% of independents say a third party is needed. That compares with 47% of Democrats and 46% of Republicans who say the same. The two major parties just bailed out the major corporations and left the working class out of luck in their so-called stimulus bills. These bipartisan policies hurt people of color and women the hardest.

Most of the progressive movement and even many on the left have failed to devote sufficient energy to supporting and building our own party representing the working class or challenging the discriminatory election, ballot access laws or debate restrictions. This conference will give us the opportunity to unify people for independent political action and campaigns to the left of the Democratic Party. The majority want a viable alternative to the duopoly. Let’s unite to give them one!

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Ralph Schoenman, Editorial Board member, The Organizer newspaper

(Vallejo, Calif.)

Fifty-seven years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, DC for Jobs and Freedom, not only have living and working conditions failed to improve for the exploited working-class majority and the poor, conditions have worsened significantly. 

Why is this? It’s because we are living under a capitalist system in terminal decay — a system that only knows how to stem its growing crisis by fueling speculation and war spending, on the one hand, and by slashing workers’ wages and working/living conditions, on the other. To achieve this, divisions are created among workers and all the oppressed to prevent us from uniting and fighting back against this predatory system.

We’re in this dire situation because the capitalists have been able to count on their twin parties — the Democrats and Republicans — to do their bidding over these past 50-plus years. To beat back this racist and anti-worker offensive by the employers and the politicians in their pay, we need to build democratically run coalitions that bring together labor and oppressed communities, so that they have a decisive say in formulating their demands and mapping out a strategy. At the same time, we need to seek out every opportunity to run independent labor-community candidates at the local level, as a step in the effort to build a new independent mass labor-based political party.

The candidates and the coalitions themselves cannot be limited to electoral politics; they must be fighting for the issues contained in the platforms, projecting these struggles into the electoral arena. This will help cement the alliance between labor and oppressed communities.

 


 

Immigrant Rights and the Fight for Independent Working-Class Politics

VOICES FOR INDEPENDENT WORKING-CLASS POLITICS

By E.J. Esperanza (Immigrant Rights Activist)

(presentation to the April 25 Expanded Organizing Committee meeting of Labor and Community for an Independent Party / LCIP)

It’s with great enthusiasm that I join you all here today.

I join you as a removal defense attorney, yes, but first and foremost, as an undocumented lawyer fighting tooth and nail for our community.

As has been said, the problems facing working-class people have seldom been more dire, and seldom has the need for a truly independent working-class political party been more necessary.

Nowhere is this question more pressing than in the immigrant community. There is no question more important for us to properly address at this time.

As you know, immigration was the Trojan horse that Trump rode to the White House — under the sham of putting American workers first. It has been central to his first term. It’s been key to fomenting the reactionary forces of White Supremacy in this country — forces that have become reinvigorated under this administration.

No two ways about it: This administration’s attacks on immigrants have been ruthless. Every day, I witness what amounts to ethnic cleansing of the clients and families that I represent.

– From the administration’s Zero Tolerance Policy, where 5,500 children were separated from their parents, and where hundreds remain unaccounted for, as if they had evaporated into thin air.

– To the January 2019 Migrant Protection Protocols – better known as the Remain in Mexico Policy – where 60,000 asylum seekers (parents and children) are forced to live in crowded and dangerous camps along the border, exposed to violence, rape, and kidnapping, not to mention the raging COVID-19 pandemic. This policy was upheld shamelessly by the Supreme Court on March 11, 2020.

Other examples mount:

– The administration’s Muslim Ban, which the Supreme Court upheld in June 2018;

– The administration’s executive order (9/5/2017) rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – a program of which I am a beneficiary. This has left 800,000 undocumented youth in limbo and exposed to deportation. A case currently pending before the Supreme Court with a decision is expected any day now. [Note: On June 18, the Supreme Court blocked the Trump administration’s cancellation of DACA because of the method Trump used, leaving open the possibility of its rescission in the future. — The Editors]

– The administration’s policy a few days ago (4/23) halting most legal migration to the United States from all countries for 60 days under the pretext of protecting American workers from the swelling unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is no question in the immigrant community about the real threat presented by the Trump administration. We know – we’ve spent every waking hour fighting it.

But more important, there is a growing awareness in the leadership of the immigrant rights movement that the Democrats are no “lesser evil.” This is an assessment borne out by experience and 15 years of struggle against Democrats and Republicans alike. It’s a perspective that any true working-class party must foster. It would be a missed opportunity not to heed these lessons from the immigrant rights movement.

First, we must be clear that the Trump administration did not create the deportation regime under which we are living today. Trump has enacted no new laws. His administration has merely enforced existing laws drafted and signed into law by the Clinton administration, in the infamous Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. These laws gave unprecedented power to the federal government to militarize the border, criminalize immigrants, and detain and deport families on a mass and unprecedented scale. We in the immigrant rights movement know that we must abolish these laws enacted by the Democratic Party.

Second, the immigrant rights movement knows all too well that the laws created by the Clinton administration were turned into an effective and efficient deportation regime by another Democrat – the Obama and Biden administration – during the Great Recession, as a means to discipline and divide the working class at precisely the same time that the Obama administration and the Democrats – who had control of both houses of Congress – were bailing out the banks in the largest swindle in American history.

The sophisticated machinery that leveraged for-profit detention centers and state-of-the-art surveillance technology was the work of the Obama and Biden administration, and their administration alone. Its aim has been to militarize the border and establish a deportation militia in the interior under Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that could effectively leverage and commandeer every local law enforcement agency in the country, every database, to identify, to track, to detain, and to deport immigrants on a mass scale.

Obama and Biden deported nearly 3 million immigrants in eight years, deporting on average nearly 400,000 immigrants a year. In comparison, Trump has deported far fewer, and has yet to deport more than 260,000 immigrants in any given year.

The infamous detention of children at the border is also a policy that began under Obama and Biden, back in 2014, which received much less attention than Trump’s policy.

Trump inherited this machine.

Now Trump hasn’t reached the record numbers of deportations seen under Obama not because the Democratic Party has resisted in any meaningful or substantial way – on the contrary, every appropriations bill increasing funding for ICE and CBP, for private detention centers, and for militarizing the border has been approved by the Democrats, including in the House of Representatives, which the Democrats now control.

In fact, and notably, in the fight against Trump, the immigrant rights movement has increasingly come up against the Democrats, as they have failed to espouse the movement’s demands and pose any real resistance to Trump. This is a significant development. Let us remember that the immigrant rights movement was largely under the thumb of the Democrats during the Obama administration, and mass mobilizations against deportations were rare in comparison to what the movement has achieved under Trump.

The crisis exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic has only sharpened this opposition between immigrant activists and Democrats. As COVID-19 spreads into detention centers, hundreds of immigrants have gone on hunger strike across the country. From Northern California, Central California, Southern California, to Colorado, to Louisiana, an unprecedented wave of hunger strikes has swept the country, largely ignored by the media.

We also have secured important court injunctions recognizing that detention is a death sentence for immigrants under this pandemic, something that was tragically confirmed with the passing of Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia at the Otay Mesa Detention Facility, the first COVID-19 death in ICE custody. Over 10,000 immigrants have secured releases due to this growing movement in the last several weeks. Detentions are at a 10-year low, down to 29,000 at the present moment. In comparison, there were nearly 50,000 immigrants in ICE custody at the peak of the Obama and Biden administrations.

During COVID-19, the immigrant rights movement has secured victories precisely by opposing and mobilizing independently of the Democrats in California, Colorado, Louisiana, Texas, and beyond.

Specifically, local struggles to close private detention centers have gained unprecedented victories under the COVID-19 pandemic, pitting Democrats in the pockets of private detention centers against an increasingly independent immigrant rights movement.

Places where the immigrant community had previously been unorganized – like the Central Valley in California, rural regions in Louisiana, Vermont, and Texas – have seen important battles taking on private detention centers and the Democrats alike.

In these localities, local Democrats have time and again sided with the Private Detention Centers, posing the question for immigrants to run their own candidates locally in a way never seen before. In rural places like McFarland, Bakersfield, and Adelanto in California, and Williamson County in Texas, the question of an independent working-class party has been urgently presented by the limitations of the Democratic politicians that sit in power locally. Just in McFarland two days ago, Latino Democrats sided with CORE CIVIC, a detention corporation, to expand an immigration jail by 350 percent after CORE CIVIC paid off the Democratic politicians. It’s in places like these where the conditions to run independent labor candidates are ripening.

So as we fight to liberate our people from detention centers, the question of independent working-class politics is posed to the immigrant rights movement during a Presidential Election where Biden represents no “lesser evil” to immigrants anywhere.

This independence is unprecedented and unheard of in any other movement today. No other movement is more ripe for independent working-class politics than the immigrant rights movement is today. Overcoming the NGO structures will be an obstacle, but not an insurmountable one

No effort to build an independent working-class party will be successful without tapping into the fight for immigrant rights and making this fight central to its formation, both in deed and words. Just like no working-class party will be successful without the Black community. I am encouraged by the Baltimore brothers and sisters, by Brother Clarence Thomas, joining this effort. The immigrant rights movement looks to the Black community. I look forward to working together more intently and joining in this fight for an independent working-class party. Let’s seize this opportunity.

Thank you.

Photos above:Activists demanding release of all detainees from ICE detention centers are arrested at protest in Sacramento, Calif.

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Call for the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” 2020 National Online Conference

(September 19-20, 2020)

Millions of workers and youth have taken to the streets since police officers in Minneapolis assassinated George Floyd. Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, they took to the streets in ever-growing mass protests — forging an insurgent movement not seen in many decades — to demand an end to police terror and systemic racism. Enough is enough, they proclaimed.

In Oakland, Calif., on Juneteenth, a march organized by International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Locals 10 and 34, made a stop at the Oakland Police Department. Community activists, including former political prisoners, spoke about their experiences with the Oakland police. Thousands chanted, “No Justice, No Peace — No Racist Police!”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the United States, a resurgent, fighting spirit has flared up among frontline workers deprived of protective gear and measures essential to ensure their safety and that of their families and broader communities. Their daily struggle has amplified the resistance of workers across the country — teachers, autoworkers, and others — who over the past few years have been fighting to take back their unions and fend off the bosses’ assault on their rights, wages, benefits, and working conditions.

In oppressed communities across the United States, the same fighting spirit continues to take on police brutality, mass incarceration (targeting Black and Brown people disproportionately), gentrification and evictions, environmental injustice, and attacks on immigrants. In many cases, these movements overlap and support each other.

With inequality skyrocketing, healthcare costs and student debt mounting, climate change roiling the planet, democratic and civil rights (especially voting rights) under increased assault, wages and benefits evaporating, as well as gentrification and the lack of affordable housing on the rise, a majority in the United States (57%) have called for a new independent political party. (Gallup Headlines, July 19, 2019)

Now the crisis confronting the working class and communities of the oppressed will deepen under the impact of the economic and social shutdown that has been imposed to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. How will working people pay the accumulated debts from unpaid rent, mortgages and other loans, as well as costly utilities? Will we be confronted with the unacceptable choice of paying astronomical increases in healthcare insurance or losing coverage?

We know full well that it is the working class and communities of the oppressed who will bear the brunt of the corporate bailout – disguised as a stimulus package – as Democratic and Republican politicians declare that there are no more public funds available and as bosses maneuver to break union contracts and coerce the rollback of wages and benefits.

Unfortunately, most of the leaders of the trade unions and of many organizations representing oppressed nationalities remain to this day tied at the hip to the Democratic Party — a party that implements the permanent war agenda of global capitalism. This relationship is the number one obstacle to building working-class power and advancing the interests of the working class and all oppressed people.

A bolder worker fightback is essential.

New Openings for Independent Working-Class Politics

More than 700 leading labor and community activists have endorsed a Statement of Purpose — at the initiative of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) — that calls for running independent labor-community candidates at the local and state level, as a step in the effort to build a new independent mass labor-based political party.

These candidates — mandated by local labor-community coalitions — are not limited to electoral politics; they must be fighting for the issues contained in their fightback platforms. This will help to cement the alliance between labor and the oppressed communities.

An important step has been taken to promote this orientation, with the convening of the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” regional conference on December 7, 2019, in Cleveland, OH, sponsored by the Labor Education and Arts Project (LEAP), in cooperation with the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), and LCIP.

In keeping with these developments, the LFN, the Ujima People’s Progress Party (a Black-led party based in Baltimore), and LCIP are convening an online national conference for independent working-class politics.

Such a national conference, of course, needs to incorporate the fight for independent Black working-class political action. Nnamdi Lumumba, convener of the Ujima People’s Progress Party, expressed well the articulation of the struggle for independent Black working-class politics and for a Labor-based party at the December “Break the Grip” conference in Cleveland, stating:

“We need to organize people around their own class interests and their own interests as nationally oppressed people. Helping to break the active or even passive support to the two capitalist, imperialist and white supremacist parties has been a fundamental goal of our efforts as the Ujima People’s Progress Party, as we seek to build a Black workers-led electoral party.

“While we support a national labor party that recognizes both the shared and independent struggles of oppressed and exploited workers on the job and in their communities, we affirm that nationally oppressed people have to center the discussion and self-organization around their own specific oppression. … Having said that, we need to create a mass-based working-class party that says capitalism does not serve you, imperialism does not serve you, and racism does not serve you.”

ILWU Local 10 retiree Clarence Thomas summed it up best when he noted that now is the time to point the way forward for independent working-class political action. “We have to strike while the iron is hot,” he stated.

If you agree with this call, please join us at the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” online conference on September 19-20. The conference Program Agenda is included below. The list of speakers will be sent out shortly.

Following is the registration link to the conference:

https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEvcu2gqD0uGN0rcvUdae8EvdLYpfZUnhIx

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Break the Grip of the Two-Party System Program Agenda 

Saturday, September 19, 2020 2 PM EST/11 AM PST

Introduction/Q&A 2:00 -2:25 EST

LCIP Opening Panel Discussion/Q&A 2:25-2:51 EST

BREAK 2:51-3:10 EST

Intro to breakout rooms 3:10-3:20 EST

First Breakout Sessions 3:20-5:20 EST

a. Breakout room #1: Title: LCIP’s Relationship to Organizing with Working-Class Communities to Combat White Supremacy and End Systemic Racism

b. Breakout room #2: Title: LCIP’s Relationship to Migrant Workers and Immigrant Workers, Families, and Students

c. Breakout room #3: Title: LCIP’s Relationship to the Anti-war and Anti-imperialist movement(s)

Panel/Q&A Why We Endorse/Support LCIP: 5:20–5:50 EST

Overview of Sunday’s Program & Breakout Groups 5:50-6:00 EST

Sunday, September 20, 2020 2 PM EST/11 AM PST

Introduction 2:00 -2:15 EST

Second Breakout Sessions 2:15-3:15 EST

a. Breakout room #4: LCIP’s Relationship to Independent Political Action and Defending the Right to Self-Determination for Oppressed Communities of Color

b. Breakout room #5: LCIP’s Relationship to the Women’s Right’s Movement

c. Breakout room #6: LCIP’s Relationship to the Labor Movement

Report back from Saturday Breakout Session 1 & recommendations to LCIP on how to proceed 3:15-4:00 EST

BREAK 4:00-4:15 EST

Report back from Sunday morning Breakout Sessions 4:15-5:00 EST

Plenary session, Organizing LCIP Going Forward 5:00-5:40 EST

Closing remarks 5:40-6:00 EST

All Out on Jan. 25 to Stop U.S. War on Iran!

Statement by Labor Fightback Network

The Labor Fightback Network adds its voice to the global demand to stop the march toward war with Iran!

– Bring all the troops home now!

– End drone, missile and bomber attacks on other countries!

– End sanctions against the peoples of Iran and all other countries!

– Take to the streets on Saturday, January 25th to win these demands!

As our country moves dangerously close to war with Iran, let’s stop this march to war in its tracks! The Trump administration has been ramping up threats of war against Iran ever since Trump departed from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran negotiated during the Obama administration.

Secretary of State Pompeo has fabricated and pushed charges against Iran, just like George W. Bush, Mike Cheney and Colin Powell did in 2003 to wage an unjust war on Iraq. Pompeo claimed that the U.S. has shown restraint with Iran, referring to false flag incidents in the Gulf of Oman and an attack on a Japanese tanker in the Straits of Hormuz in May and June 2019, respectively. Following Trump’s illegal and unconstitutional acts of war, including military attacks in Iraq and Syria on December 30, 2019 and mimicking Obama’s signature policy of assassination by drone of Iran’s top military officer Major General Qassim Suleimani, in Iraq on a diplomatic mission, Trump ordered an additional 3,500 troops to the region.

In a tweet and off-the-cuff response, Trump promised retaliation against any Iranian attack, threatening to target 52 Iranian locations, including cultural sites. This would endanger civilians and constitute a war crime according to international law.

Now that Iran has retaliated with missile attacks on January 6, 2020, on two U.S. military bases in Iraq with no serious casualties, there’s no telling what the Trump administration will do. Despite a recent national address saying there will be no further strike against Iran, Trump offered no strategy, called for further isolation of Iran and rejected any plans for troop withdrawal, as the Iraqi parliament has recently demanded.

Anti-war actions are planned around the nation and the world. Around 200 organizations, including the United National Antiwar Coalition-(UNAC), ANSWER Coalition, Code Pink, Popular Resistance, US Labor Against the War, the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE) and others are calling for a Global Day of Protest – No War on Iran for January 25th, 2020 in Washington DC and across the nation. 

The Labor Fightback Network endorses this call for the January 25th Global Protest – No War on Iran. We further call for the U.S. to pull out all troops from Iraq, Syria and the region. End drone strikes and missile assaults on these and all countries. End all acts of war, economic as well as military. We also call for an end to collaboration with Israel and Saudi Arabia in further war designs.

Report on the Cleveland“Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” Conference

Cleveland, Ohio — December 7, 2019

By Labor Fightback Network

The people of the United States deserve better than what two-party politics has delivered on the important issues — jobs, healthcare, equal justice, peace and the environment. In fact, large numbers of people are ready to move toward independent politics. According to a recent Gallup poll, 57% of the people see the need for a third major political party. Virtually three-quarters of independents (72%) “support a third major political party.”

We may not get too many more chances to give an organized expression to this quest for independent, working class politics. The U.S. could be one cracked head away from Hong Kong, Gaza, Bolivia, or Baghdad. Civil and labor rights are already being strangled by the powerful corporate front group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is pushing anti-protest and anti-labor laws, and by the far-right turn of politics promoted by SCOTUS and by any U.S president who chooses to emulate his or her favorite oppressor of the week.

People of color and low-income people are still fighting for equal opportunity and justice. Mass incarceration rates in the U.S. exceed all other nations at 724 per 100,000 people. Workers struggle to survive on low wages, waiting for their piece of the “American Dream.” In 2016, people in this country spent twice as much on health care than other high-income nations, with 27.4 million people still without health insurance in that period. The U.S. “war on terror” — a bipartisan war on working people at home and abroad — has claimed millions of lives and is expected to cost taxpayers $6 trillion! It’s time to reclaim governance, equal rights, fair pay and dignity for all.

The Labor Fightback Network encourages community and labor activists to venture out and explore the options to build a Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP).  We’ll be in Middleburg Heights, Ohio on December 7, 2019 for the “Break the Grip on the Two-Party System” conference https://www.facebook.com/events/486321765290865/ hosted by the Labor Education and Arts Project (LEAP). We’ll be unpacking the main question of an independent political party. The topics for deliberation will include: (1) Medicare for All; (2) endless regime change wars and deadly sanctions vs. international working class solidarity; and (3) forced migration and deportation.

HEALTH CARE

The twin parties of Big Business fatten at the trough of health care, which is nearly 18% of the U.S. economy. Spending twice as much on health care per capita as the other industrialized countries, we in the U.S. have by far the worst outcomes in terms of infant mortality and longevity. We already spend enough to provide a high standard of care to everyone, but the Republican and Democratic parties maintain the unjust, unequal and inefficient status quo in order to preserve the cash flowing from the profiteers. They are bought and owned by the commercial health insurance corporations, hospital chains, the Wall Street drug cartel and so many vendors.

Dominated by the marketplace and finance capital, our health-care system is a story of haves and have-nots, with services and facilities shut down in working-class communities, particularly in communities of color, while gargantuan health-care empires grow through mergers and takeovers. A single-payer financing mechanism, such as expanded and improved Medicare for All, will value each one’s health and life equally, undercutting this drive toward inequality and weakening the grip of Big Capital on our lives. But the old parties of the bosses block us at every turn, terrified that we are finding the path to victory over their crushing oppression.

JOBS

The Republican Party is known for its anti-labor positions, so union workers have tended to support the Democrats to fight for U.S. workers and low-income people. Democrats have failed to push for meaningful labor law reform leaving loopholes and free rides for corporations. For example, employers must recognize unions once workers ratify an agreement in an election, but employers can delay elections for months or even years. Once a union shop is established, they face no obligation to reach a contract with their newly unionized workers. Employers are prohibited from firing workers or threatening to closing shop if workers organize to unionize, but the penalties for such violations are insufficient. Democrats also could have repealed the part of the Taft-Hartley Act, which allows states to pass “right to work” laws that penalize organized labor by allowing workers in unionized workplaces to enjoy the benefits without paying dues to the union that made that well-paying job possible.

Between 1978 and 2017, labor union membership in the United States dropped by more than half — from 26% of the workforce to 10.7%. The U.S. economy is breaking records in economic disparity, according to Census Bureau data. CEO compensation has grown 940% since 1978, while typical worker compensation has risen only 12% during that time. [2] From 1979 to 2016, the wages of the top 1% grew nearly 150%, whereas the wages of the other 90% grew just 21.3%, about one-seventh as fast. Today’s low unemployment rate is not enough to spark any meaningful wage growth for most workers.

With a declining middle-class, workers want change. About half of all nonunion workers say they would vote for a union if given the opportunity. This is up by 50% when a similar survey was taken in 1995. Nationally, 64% of people are favorable toward unions, according to a 2019 Gallup survey. [3] Despite this reality, the National Labor Relations Board under Trump has stymied workers’ ability to form unions and engage in collective bargaining by curtailing worker protections and failing in its obligation to administer and enforce the National Labor Relations Act.

The Democrats also have failed the labor movement. Barack Obama won the election in 2008 by promising workers that once in office he would enact the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have removed the main obstacles to organizing unions in the workplaces across the country. During Obama’s first two years in office, the Democrats held a majority in both Houses of Congress. Passing EFCA was do-able. But the Democrats buckled to Big Business, which funds both the Democrats and the Republicans.

JUSTICE

Between 1980 and 2015, the number of people incarcerated in the U.S. increased from roughly 500,000 to over 2.2 million, with African Americans incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites. This was fueled by both major parties competing in “tough on crime” agendas.

Bill Clinton handed a huge gift to the private prison industry with the passage of the 1994 Crime Bill. This legislation gave federal approval for states to pass even more punitive laws and harsher practices by prosecutors and police, incarcerating more people and with longer sentences. The 1994 law shaped Democratic Party politics for years to come.

Under the leadership of Bill Clinton, Democrats sought to wrest control of crime issues from Republicans, so the two parties began a bidding war to increase penalties for crime, trying to outdo one another. Republicans continued their fear-mongering and pushed for more punitive policies in the states. Trump has ratcheted up white supremacy with his racist language and his directives aimed at rolling back federal oversight over police brutality and killings targeting African Americans.

The George W. Bush administration fostered a climate of fear and loathing for immigrants, particularly Muslim-Americans, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Unconstitutional policies — a regime of disappearances and torture, special registration of men from Muslim-majority nations, and expanded use of Guantanamo Bay Prison — were implemented under Bush. Fear in our nation allowed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Barack Obama continued all these policies and earned the name “Deporter-in-Chief.” Guantanamo is still holding 40 men indefinitely. Now under Trump, asylum seekers, immigrants and Jewish and Muslim-Americans are more predominately facing discrimination and the wrath and violence of hate groups.

PEACE

Our bloated military budget has averaged around $700 billion annually since 2008, and, rather than secure peace, it just fuels more wars, deaths and devastation. It’s true that the military supplies some union jobs, but that money could supply plenty more union jobs in the civilian sector. After World War II, the economic conversion movement played an important role in joining union leadership with the peace movement to figure out the nuts and bolts of converting from war time industry to peace time. A Just Transition to a peace economy is possible and necessary. Candidates from both parties are heavily funded by top weapons contractors at the rate of $26.5 million in 2008 and well over $30 million in 2016. There will be no peace as long as war parties are in charge.

THE CONFERENCE

With 80% of us now living paycheck to paycheck with little to no savings, a precarious nation is at its limits. Ominous economic data and politics as usual suggest that working people will be subjected to another economic downturn and another rigged Democratic primary. By taking steps now, we can be prepared to offer a genuine alternative in the face of those crises. Without it, Trump and the far right will continue to fill the growing void in political representation.

Join us for this two-fold conference to be held on Saturday, December 7. The first session, from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. with luncheon, will take place at the Middleburg Heights Branch of the Cuyahoga County Library, located at 16699 Bagley Road’ in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. It will be followed by a dinner session with speakers from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Brew Garden,18590 Bagley Road also in Middleburg Heights.

Speakers include:
• Margaret Flowers, MD, Co-chair Green Party US; • Dan Kovalik, labor and human rights lawyer, author, and radio and TV commentator; • Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC, AFL-CIO); • Nnamdi Lumumba, Representative, Ujima People’s Progress Party; • Kevin Zeese, public interest attorney who co-directs PopularResistance; • Robert Fitrakis, political science professor and investigative journalist; • Alan Benjamin, Editorial Board member, The Organizer newspaper; • Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez, co-director, InterReligious Task Force on Central America; and • Don Bryant, Board member, Cleveland Peace Action, among others.

This conference is being held in cooperation with the Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP), a nationwide network that traces its continuity back to Tony Mazzocchi’s Labor Party Advocates and to the 1996 Labor Party Convention in Cleveland. Our organization, the Labor Education & Arts Project (LEAP), is indebted for their support. The 1996 Labor Party Convention in Cleveland was attended by 1,400 delegates from 9 international unions, over 300 union locals, state and regional bodies and 40 chapters nationwide with union and non-union workers as members. Though there was contention regarding running candidates immediately following the founding convention, it did accomplish adopting a constitution and program. Reconnecting with that effort today should be a top priority of the U.S. labor movement.

The conference is sponsored by the Labor Education & Arts Project (LEAP) and Labor Fightback Network (LFN) in cooperation with Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP), a nationwide network of labor and community activists. On the web at: https://lcipcampaign.org/

Donations, gratefully received, may be sent to: LEAP, P.O. Box 5334, Cleveland, OH 44101 and made payable to same. Alternatively, a donate button appears on our Labor Education & Arts Project social media page: https://www.facebook.com/LaborEducation/.

Contributions are tax deductible in accordance with Section 501c3 of the Internal Revenue Code. For donations of $25 and above, we will gladly send you, postage prepaid, copies of our LaborFest booklets: “Eugene Debs Centennial” and “A Tribute to the IWW a.k.a. The Wobblies.” If you choose to donate via the donate button on our Facebook page, please send your name and return address to newdeallaborart@gmail.com.

Mike Carano

Mike Carano is a unionist and political activist in Tallmadge, Ohio

Those demanding change must be pragmatic. First, we must organize and call for a national conference of unions and community and justice groups — local to national — to hammer out a two-fold program: a strong platform that takes on the systemic roots that created a 45-year decline in wages for working people and, a practical plan to form a new party whose candidates are embedded in the needs of the mass of Americans, not the needs of the corporate and financial class. It will be tragic once again if we waste our energies on an inside strategy that has time and again borne no fruit. 

The inside strategy is a dead end. We should not doubt that the centrist, corporate Democrats will do all they can in a replay of 2016 to keep brother Bernie Sanders from the nomination. And though we applaud Sanders for single-handedly changing the discussion and narratives in this country as no one has done in decades, the Democratic Party will not take us where we need to go. For that reason, we call on all Sanders supporters to join us, if not now then after the DNC and the mass media have cheated Sanders once again.  If we want real, systemic change, then we must not allow our energy, time, and money to once again get siphoned into a party that will never serve our needs.

Therefore, our efforts and needed political work must steer us in one direction — a formation of new party of, from, and for the working people of this nation. 

The younger generation is onto the two-party game and has no affinity or affection for the Democratic Party. And why should they? Their generation has been bludgeoned by the neoliberal two-party system.

The corporate parties gave them the distinction of being the first generation not to fare better than their parents, not to be able to find decent jobs with livable wages, to be straddled with a lifetime of student debt, to be unable to find affordable housing, and to be incapable of planning a future, if in fact a future is possible with the cloud of climate catastrophe circling over their heads.

So we must act. And therefore we call all like-minded people to join this effort. And those who still hope for a Sanders candidacy, if again disappointed, should know that we are here with the one solution, one that will not end in disappointment if we tirelessly exert our efforts in the needed work, one that runs candidates tied to a platform built around the real needs of working people. The door is open. Get in.

“Break the Grip of the Two-Party System: Labor & Community for an Independent Party”

Regional Conference

Cleveland, Ohio

December 7, 2019

cover of program booklet of 1918 LEAP-sponsored Debs Centennial Conference

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Please join us in Cleveland, Ohio, on December 7 at a regional conference titled, “Break the Grip of the Two-party System: Labor & Community for an Independent Party.” The conference is sponsored by Labor Education and Arts Project (LEAP) in cooperation with Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP).

This two-fold event will be held with a conference from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. followed by a dinner session with speakers from 5 p.m. till 8 p.m. 

APWU President Mark Dimondstein

The Labor Education & Arts Project sponsored a Eugene V. Debs Centennial in October 2018 that featured the letter of greetings sent to the gathering by Mark Dimondstein, president of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). In that letter Brother Dimondstein noted that, “the fundamental politics of both the Democratic and Republican parties … have undercut and failed the working class.”  

As was the case with the multi-panel Centennial, the topics for the conference and dinner will include the following: (1) a duopoly foreign policy and its regime change agenda via the endless drumbeat for war and, if not war, then the scourge of sanctions; (2) a white-supremacist inspired immigration policy as successor to Obama’s legacy as “Deporter in Chief;” and (3) the endlessly forestalled question of Medicare for All.

The list of speakers is still in formation and will include (1) Dan Kovalik, a labor and human rights lawyer and author; (2) Baldemar Velasquez, President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC, AFL-CIO), (3) Donna Dewitt, President Emeritus of the South Carolina AFL-CIO, (4) Nnamdi Lumumba, Representative, Ujima People’s Progress Party, and (5) Alan Benjamin, Editorial Board member, The Organizer newspaper.

For more information about time and place of the conference, and for an update on panels and speakers, please go to lcipcampaign.org — which is the website of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP), a nationwide network of labor activists that traces its continuity back to Tony Mazzocchi’s Labor Party Advocates.

Best in Unity,

Tom Sodders

LEAP Corresponding Secretary

Campaign for Independent Black Political Action

IN THIS DOSSIER:

(1) Statement by Ujima People’s Progress Party in Support of LCIP

(2) Call to Exit Both Parties of the Bosses — Interview with Brandon Walker of the Ujima People’s Progress Party

(3)  A Contribution to the Discussion: For Independent Black Political Action! — by Alan Benjamin

(4) Statement by Clarence Thomas, Retired member of ILWU Local 10 and Co-Convener of the Million Worker March

* * * * * * * * * *

(1) Ujima People’s Progress Party Statement in Support of Labor & Community for an Independent Party (LCIP)

Since the launching of our campaign, the Ujima People’s Progress Party has called for the building of an alternate electoral option for working-class people. It has been obvious to us that support for the capitalist duopoly control of the electoral process has undermined the interests Black, Brown and working-class people. The support working people give to imperialist parties and their politics in the form of our votes, donations and political action to advance capitalist/imperialist interests only deepens our own misery.

Black workers, as well as all workers, must engage in independent political action to fight for our interests and oppose the actions of imperialist forces which threaten to take more and more resources from working and poor people. On the state and local level, we have called for a political party that is anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist and fights to empower Black, Brown and working-class people. There must be a national voice for these same calls and using the electoral process is opportunity to raise the consciousness of working-class people.

Politics is more than elections and voting but, in this era, it has become the most obvious form of political participation for the masses. We understand elections as non-violent struggles between elements of the ruling class for control of the State apparatus to implement policy to advance their economic interests.

On both the local and national levels, elections rarely offer working people options for transforming the world, so helping to break with active or even passive support to capitalist, imperialist and white supremacist parties has been a fundamental key goal of our efforts to build a Black workers-led electoral party.

There is a need to contend with the ideas of the ruling class in all political arenas. In addition to the local struggles workers must carry out on the electoral front, we have long supported the call for the national Labor & Community for an Independent Party work. Such a formation would unite the grassroot struggles of working people and put them squarely on the table for debate against the capitalist parties.

Working-class people need solutions that are anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist. They need to be organized and mobilized around policies that oppose imperialism, oppression and the exploitation of nations for their resources or cheap labor. The ideas from the two ruling class capitalist parties stunt the vision and unity of working people not only in this country but all over the world; the very justness of these ideas must be challenged.

As opposed to the parasitic and paternalistic relationship that the ruling class parties have forced upon Black, Brown and other oppressed peoples, we support a national labor party that recognizes both the shared and independent struggles of oppressed workers on the job as well as in their communities.

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(2) Call to Exit Both Parties of the Bosses: Interview with Brandon Walker

Presentation

Dear Friends and comrades,

Please find below brief excerpts from an interview with Brandon Walker, outreach coordinator of the Ujima People’s Progress Party, that was broadcast on The Real News Network, based in Baltimore. (The full interview has been posted to the LCIP website: lcipcampaign.org.)

The interview was conducted on September 29, 2019, by Jacqueline Loqman following a demonstration that we helped to organize to protest the participation of Black workers in the Democratic and Republican parties — both imperialist parties.

Specifically, it was a protest of a #Blexit conference organized in Baltimore by Candace Owens of the right-wing Turning Point USA organization. The aim of this right-wing group is to drive the Black community out of the deadly embrace of the Democratic Party and into the equally dangerous Republican party. 

We called for the exit of all capitalist and imperialist parties and the building of independent working class parties and movements.

In solidarity,

Nnamdi Lumumba (Ujima People’s Progress Party)

———–

Excerpts from Interview

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: This is Jackie Luqman with The Real News Network.

Trump’s recent disparaging comments about Baltimore have turned the attention of the right wing of America’s political apparatus onto the city. Never one to miss an opportunity to promote her new right-wing gimmick to allegedly attract Black voters away from the Democratic Party, Candace Owens of the organization Turning Point USA held the group’s #Blexit Conference at Baltimore’s Rams Head Live last week. 

Here to talk about the protest that took place at that event, and about the real political options for Black voters, is Brandon Walker. Brandon, a Baltimore native and resident, is the Outreach Coordinator for the Ujima People’s Progress Party in Baltimore. He is also a member of Black Alliance for Peace.

Let’s start with Trump’s rhetoric about Baltimore because that’s arguably the reason that Owens brought her rally to Rams Head Live. What’s your response to Trump’s comments about Baltimore?

BRANDON WALKER: Trump comes at the issue from a right-wing perspective when he casts an entire city as rat-infested.The right-wingers have taken advantage of this issue and used it as a political jab to slight the Democratic mis-leadership, as a way to gather up votes for the Republican Party in 2020. The right-wing activists have an agenda. They are telling a city with a majority Black population, “Hey, we’re your friends, leave the Democratic Party and come to the Republican Party!” — another imperialist party.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: When you’re talking about the Black mis-leadership class, what does that mean in terms of the situation in Baltimore?

BRANDON WALKER: For the past 150 years the Democrats and Republicans have controlled the mayor’s office; it’s gone back and forth. Out of those 150 years, 75% of the time, or more, saw Black faces in power, in servitude to white power, to the white ruling class. The issues confronting everyday folks such as myself, working-class folks who try to make a living and also take care of their families, tended to fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, disparities and under-development in our communities increased, and people continued to get swindled out of their votes.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: So what we’re talking about in terms of Black mis-leadership is mostly the Democratic Party. This is the focus of Candace Owens and her #Blexit organization. That’s the kind of narrative she is seizing upon, but what you’re saying is that there is a bigger narrative than that. It’s not just that the Democratic Party doesn’t help Black people, it’s also that the Republican Party leadership in Baltimore hasn’t helped Black people. Is that correct?

BRANDON WALKER: Absolutely. What we have is a political mis-leadership — from the state house in Annapolis to Baltimore City down on Holliday Street — that does not have the political will to defend our interests as Black people. Every time we elect someone from the two major parties, we’re just electing white supremacy. He or she may have a different form of Black face, but nothing will be done for the constituents; only the interests of the white ruling class will be served.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: What you’re saying is that whether you elect a Black Democrat or a white Republican, or a white Democrat or a Black Republican, what you’re electing is someone who serves the ruling class and does not serve the working people at all.

BRANDON WALKER: Absolutely.

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: Tell us about the protest of the #Blexit conference last week at Ram’s Head Live. 

BRANDON WALKER: We were out in the streets to make sure that the media could not ignore the advocates of independent Black radical politics, as well as those who are fighting for the economic interests of poor and working-class folks. We wanted to get the word out that, hey, the city is in need of new leadership: Why go with Democratic Party version of white supremacy or with the Republican Party version of white supremacy?

JACQUELINE LUQMAN: I want to ask you this last question: Is our only choice between a Democratic Party that takes advantage of the Black vote and a Republican Party that ignores Black issues? Are those the only choices Black voters have before them, or do your organizations offer another choice to pursue the self-determination of Black voters in this country?

BRANDON WALKER: There are other choices. You have the Peoples Power Assembly and the Ujima People’s Progress Party. The idea is to win power back to the people using local campaigns and local elections. The idea is to bring change locally.

As workers and also as the Black left, we believe in the right to housing, education, clothing, access to education, and also jobs that pay a livable wage and transportation and environmental justice, against the racism. We are also opposed to the putrid two-party system. We no longer have any other choice but to invest in ourselves to move forward. Together as a coalition, we can do better.

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(c)  A Contribution to the Discussion: For Independent Black Political Action!

by Alan Benjamin (Editorial Board member, The Organizer)

There is a component of the fight for working-class unity and independent political action that must be a high priority: the Black struggle, which, in the aftermath of the uprising in the Black liberation movement since Ferguson, Missouri, has moved to center stage in U.S. politics. The murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson sparked the beginning of  a mass upsurge against police violence based on the assertion that Black Lives Matter. A new Civil Rights movement is taking shape.

We are at the beginning of a long struggle that must uproot white supremacy and a system based on racism. There is a state of emergency in Black America, with mass unemployment at depression levels, mass incarceration and an epidemic of police violence.Many gains of the Civil Rights era have been eroded or destroyed. Voting rights are under attack, and income inequality affects Black people at a disproportionate percentage. Austerity and the assault on public-sector employment have translated into a further setback for living standards in the Black community.

Because of a history and pattern of discrimination in the private sector, Black people are 30% more likely to find employment in the public sector. Budget cuts during the “Great Recession” were devastating to an already vulnerable population. The struggle against police brutality and racism is an urgent task that cannot be simply reduced to one of class against class. The oppressed can’t be expected to wait until the unions go into motion.

We must support the independent self-organization and activity of the oppressed Black people. We must support their right to self-determination. We must understand that white supremacy has been and continues to be the central source of division within the working class in the United States.

To help overcome this obstacle, we must fight for the unions to champion the rights of racially and nationally oppressed groups, and we must support and participate in the autonomous movements and organizations of Blacks and Latinos, as part of an overall strategy of building working-class unity. This will require breaking with the Democratic Party and forging a unity of equals with workers of other nationalities. It will require building an independent Black Working Class Party, which could be linked to the struggle for a labor-based party rooted in the trade unions and oppressed communities.

This is an important means today for U.S. workers and their organizations, with their oppressed allies, to break free of the stranglehold of the capitalist parties. 

– – – – –

(d) Statement by Clarence Thomas, retired member of ILWU Local 10 and co-convener of the Million Worker March

As an African-American trade unionist, past secretary-treasurer of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10, and one of the founders of the Million Worker March (MWM) movement, I am endorsing the Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP). 

This Campaign is a continuation of the MWM’s call for workers in the U.S. to “mobilize in our own name,” independent of the ruling class-controlled political parties “around an independent agenda for working people acting in their own name.”

All those who believe in a political party that represents the interests of the working class and recognizes the right of self-determination for African Americans and all oppressed people will understand the importance of supporting this Campaign.