|A Call for
The Labor Party's Program
|As revised at
the Labor Party's First Constitutional Convention, November, 1998.
We are the people who build and maintain the nation but rarely enjoy the fruits of our labor. We are the employed and the unemployed. We are the people who make the country run but have little say in running the country.
We come together to create this Labor Party to defend our interests and aspirations from the greed of multinational corporate interests. Decades of concessions to corporations by both political parties have not produced the full employment economy we have been promised. Instead income and wealth disparities have widened to shameful extents. We offer an alternative vision of a just society that values working people, their families and communities.
We, the members of this Labor Party, see ourselves as keepers of the American Dream of opportunity, fairness, and justice.
In our American Dream, we all have the right:
Our Labor Party understands that our struggle for democracy pits us against a corporate elite that will fight hard to retain its powers and privileges. This is the struggle of our generation. The future of our children and their children hangs in the balance. It is a struggle we cannot afford to lose.
Amend the Constitution
Corporate America is systematically destroying millions of decent paying jobs for working people.
At the same time, the rich and the powerful are leading an assault on the public sector and demanding cutbacks in government jobs that provide services for us all.
As a result, there are not enough good jobs to go around and our public services are crumbling.
Nearly one in four workers are either unemployed, involuntarily working part-time, or are working full-time at poverty-level wages.
Since World War II, the government has been committed on paper to a full employment economy. But Corporate America and its army of pliable politicians have made a mockery of that idea. In the name of creating jobs they give the rich and powerful more tax breaks, more subsidies, and less government regulation.
But trickle-down economics doesnt work for us. It only works for them.
The more subsidies and tax breaks for corporations the politicians give away, the more jobs that are destroyed through mergers, runaway investments, automation, and subcontracting.
These give-aways and concessions must stop.
First and foremost everyone, both in the private and public sectors, needs a guarantee of a right to a job at a living wage one that pays above poverty-level wages and is indexed to inflation. And in todays world that comes to a minimum of about $10 an hour.
We want this right written directly into the U.S. Constitution.
The Declaration of Independence affirmed our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Preamble to the Constitution promised "to establish Justice,... promote the General Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
But for working people all this means nothing if we dont have the right to a job.
Pay Laid-off Workers
Every time a corporation lays off workers the value of its stock rises and its executive officers reap rich rewards. Meanwhile laid-off workers and their communities pay the price.
On average, workers lose over $100,000 of their lifetime earnings when they are laid off. In addition, numerous studies show that unemployed workers and their families experience increased rates of disease and social problems like suicide and domestic violence.
Communities also suffer from the declining incomes and increasing social problems caused by layoffs. This burden on our communities averages about $25,000 per laid-off worker.
Nothing will change until Corporate America is forced to pay for some of the damage it causes.
We therefore propose a Job Destruction Penalty Act modeled after the one proposed by the New Jersey Industrial Union Council, AFL-CIO (which covers all workers except those in hiring hall types of employment).
This Job Destruction Penalty Act will make Corporate America think twice about layoffs.
The right to organize unions, bargain freely and strike when necessary is being destroyed by employers and their representatives in government. Today, nearly 1 out of 10 workers involved in union organizing drives is illegally fired by employers who wage a campaign of fear, threats and slick propaganda to keep workers from exercising a genuinely free choice.
That is why union membership is declining. And as union membership falls so do the wages of all working people, union and non-union alike. (The buying power of the average workers wage has declined by 15 percent over the last 25 years.)
As a Labor Party, we will support the courageous efforts of our brothers and sisters out in the streets and in the fields all over this nation to overcome these legal handicaps, especially in the South and Southwest where the laws are most hostile.
We also must dedicate ourselves to fighting for a complete overhaul of this countrys labor laws.
For generations, bosses have profited by dividing working people on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, and political beliefs.
Rather than creating enough jobs, they force us to fight among ourselves for the few good ones that remain. Rather than creating enough opportunities for higher education, they force us and our children to quarrel over the available spots.
We can curb corporate power only if we unite around a commission of economic justice and fairness. Real democracy includes all of us. We work in all kinds of occupations, and come from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. We are women as well as men.
We favor full rights for all, and we will tolerate no discrimination or other form of injustice based on race, religion, gender, ethnicity, disability, national origin, age, creed, sexual orientation, language, or political beliefs. We favor amending Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect all these categories from discrimination.
We oppose all forms of terrorism and hate crimes, including attacks against African American churches, synagogues, or other places of worship. We also oppose police brutality and other forms of the criminalization of dissent and poverty.
We support affirmative action and anti-discrimination programs to take away the bosses power to divide and conquer.
We support an immigration policy that does not discriminate on any basis; and a trade policy that supports international fair labor standards and works to alleviate the conditions that send people moving around the globe in search of opportunity.
We also support comparable worth initiatives and strong sanctions against sexual harassment to make the workplace safe and fair for women workers.
This Labor Party stands against current efforts to dismantle these programs. From the shop floor to the executive suite, we believe the workforce should reflect the wonderfully diverse face of our nation. We stand for justice and the end to discrimination.
Health care is the most profitable industry in the nation and it is the most shameless example of unbridled corporate greed in the U.S. In the guise of cost-containment, it redistributes resources from sick people and their caregivers to wealthy businessmen and shareholders.
Forty-two million Americans have no health insurance. Eighty percent of the uninsured are working people and their dependents. And tying health care coverage to the job encourages companies to use part-time and temporary workers to evade providing benefits.
We spend more on health care than any other nation in the world. But a poorly regulated, corporate-dominated health care system eliminates choice, erodes care, and inflates administrative costs while boosting profits and CEO compensation.
Health care is a critical social good that demands collective interests prevail over private gain. We call for:
More Time for
Each year we become more and more productive at work. In a fair and just economy, increased productivity should allow us to work fewer hours, not more. Yet compared to the late 1960s, we are now working an average of more than one extra month annually.
We work longer hours and have less vacation time than almost all workers in the industrialized world. While many of us cannot find work, factory overtime is now at record levels because it is more profitable to pay overtime than it is to hire new workers.
Enough is enough.
We call for amending the federal labor laws to:
Taken together these proposals will create millions of new jobs and allow us free time we need to care for our families and to participate in our communities. More family time and more community participation should be the fruit of increased labor productivity.
While politicians babble about family values, this Labor Party intends to do something real to protect our families.
We call for a basic benefit package that covers all working people full-time and part-time workers, employed and unemployed. This package would include:
A guaranteed adequate annual income for all, with a yearly cost of living allowance increase, which will bring both families and individuals up and out of poverty.
Such benefits already exist in most European countries. But they are under attack by corporations that want benefits pushed down to the lower levels that exist in the U.S. We must end this race to the bottom by bringing our benefits up to more just and humane standards.
This is our program to protect family values.
We are a nation of educational haves and have nots.
The rich protect their children in elite private schools while our children suffer in increasingly crowded, dangerous, and under-funded public schools.
The rich send their children to the best colleges and universities, while more and more of our children are denied higher education due to rising tuition costs and deep cutbacks in our state universities.
This two-tiered educational system must end.
We call for a renewed commitment to high quality public education for all, not voucher systems and other privatization schemes that further reduce resources for our public schools.
We call for:
Multinational corporations and most of their hired politicians claim that free trade is good for us. But the corporate version of free trade is really about seeking the cheapest sources of labor and escaping labor and environmental standards wherever they interfere with profits.
We favor free and open trade, but only if the rights of all workers, both here and abroad, are strongly protected. Then trade will not only be free, it will also be fair. Trade is not free or fair if it pits us against workers who get paid pennies a day, work in horrid conditions, and enjoy no legal rights. Trade is not free or fair if it makes it easier for corporations to pollute their workers and the environment.
We oppose NAFTA and GATT in their current forms. We also reject narrowly nationalistic solutions to trade imbalances that scapegoat our fellow workers in other countries. We believe in trading freely with all trading partners who adhere to basic minimum labor and environmental standards.
Our Labor Party will actively promote a strategy of international solidarity and cooperation with labor movements and labor parties in other nations through the exchange of information, worker organizing, collective bargaining, and other actions and strategies that demonstrate our commitment to work together to confront the global attacks on our environment and living and working conditions. We oppose all policies instituted by corporate-dominated lending institutions like the World Bank that force developing nations to lower the wages of their workers. We will especially strive to bring pressure to bear on those U.S.-based transnational corporations that are violating labor rights in other nations of the world, and to fight against any U.S.-based policies that would undermine the rights of workers in other nations to organize.
Finally, we demand that our government stop doing the bidding of global corporations and stop using military and foreign policy to prop up anti-labor regimes that violate human rights.
Corporate Welfare is a disgrace.
Today much of Corporate America is living on welfare in the form of tax breaks and direct government subsidies.
To divert us from this estimated two hundred billion dollar a year corporate welfare ripoff, media pundits and corporate politicians aim their fire at the poor on low-income welfare (which amounts to less than one third of what corporations take from the treasury.)
Thats what we call welfare reform.
Over the past twenty-five years, while we have suffered a decline in our standard of living, a staggering amount of wealth has been pumped up into the hands of a tiny elite. Never before has so much money been diverted into the hands of so few.
From 1983 to 1989 alone the top one percent of all families increased their wealth by over $1.45 trillion. During the same period the national debt increased by $1.49 trillion.
We need a just and simplified tax system to reclaim what is rightfully ours. We need to make the rich pay their fair share.
And to ensure that they do, we propose the following kind of wealth taxes:
Such taxes would not only make our tax system fair and just, but it would also provide this country with the needed funds to provide decent jobs and benefits for all.
The public sector has gotten a bad name because much of what passes for government today is a way to enrich the wealthy at our expense. Through government, Corporate America receives its long list of welfare in tax breaks, subsidies and cost-plus contracts. Even worse, as sales taxes, payroll taxes, and property taxes on working people have been unfairly increased, many important public services have been sharply reduced.
Corporate-backed politicians are using the anti-government sentiment they have so carefully engineered to kill vital programs that many employers have always despised. If corporations continue to get their way, OSHA will be gutted, our environmental and labor laws will be worthless, our public health system will be dismantled, and the safety net and public universities will be only a dim memory.
Its time for working people to put an end to this nonsense.
The Labor Party stands firmly opposed to the privatization and contracting out of public services presently performed.
A government that works for us would provide critical goods and services that can not, and should not, be run for profit. Our kind of government would:
We can fund all of these programs with a more equitable tax system that sharply increases taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Additional funds can be gained by eliminating unnecessary and wasteful military spending.
Lets get government to work for us, not for the corporations.
The current system of privately financed elections essentially takes away our right to vote.
Today Corporate America and the rich use their vast wealth to dominate the election process.
As a result, politicians put the vested interests of the rich and powerful ahead of the needs and concerns of their constituents and the nation as a whole. It is virtually impossible to pass legislation that protects and empowers working people.
Instead we are forced to watch elected politicians of both parties routinely rob the public treasury of billions of dollars, giving their rich and powerful donors tax breaks, subsidies, bail-outs, and regulatory exemptions.
We demand an end to this robbery. We demand a level playing field.
We support all efforts to enhance working peoples political power and we oppose all efforts to dismantle majority black or brown electoral districts. In addition, we support statehood for the District of Columbia.
We also want:
Enacting such a system would encourage Americans from all walks of life, regardless of their economic means, to seek public office and save taxpayers billions of dollars of corporate welfare heaped on the rich and powerful.
Such a system would allow all of us a fair and equal voice in deciding who should represent us and what legislation should be passed. Such a system and a Labor Party would make democracy a reality.
Build A Just
This Labor Party affirms its commitment to a clean and safe environment. We all need clean workplaces, clean air, and clean water. But we also need our jobs.
We reject the false choice of jobs or the environment. We will not be held hostage by corporate polluters who poison our workplaces and our communities.
We refuse this corporate blackmail. Corporations are not interested in either saving our jobs or protecting the environment.
But we also know that environmental change is coming. What we produce and how we produce will change as steps are taken to protect people and the natural environment from harm.
The Labor Party will support taking such steps if and only if the livelihoods of working people endangered by environmental change are fully protected.
Therefore, the Labor Party calls for the creation of a new worker-oriented environmental movement a Just Transition Movement that puts forth a fair and just transition program to protect both jobs and the environment.
The regulation of occupational safety and health hazards is shamefully inadequate, and the enforcement of the standards we have is woefully neglected.
The Labor Party must address this important area. In addition to increasing the number of OSHA inspectors, we need the right to act and to enforce any and all safety and health regulations.
In addition, we need the following national laws:
Labor has little or no voice in the design or implementation of new technologies. Instead, giant corporations use technological research, design, and workplace implementation to maximize their profits at our expense.
Corporations control the design and use of computers and information technologies, as well as other kinds of mechanization and automation.
They also control the design of work itself, imposing new administrative and computerized control technologies under such names as "workplace re-engineering." Like previous corporate methods, workplace re-engineering is based on speed up and de-skilling. However it poses another danger to our jobs as well.
The corporate control of workplace design destroys jobs. Corporations implement technologies and designs that make it profitable to replace full-time workers with an army of temporaries.
To fight back we call for the creation of a labor-based, publicly-funded Technology Democratization Commission, which will work to ensure that labor plays an important role shaping the development and implementation of technology.