AFL-CIO Convention Opens Discussion on Need to Break with ‘Lesser Evilism’

(left to right): Lee Saunders, AFSCME; Randi Weingarten, AFT; and Mark Dimondstein, APWU


afl-cio convention logo

AFL-CIO Convention Opens Discussion on Need To Break with “Lesser of Two Evils” Politics


On October 24, the AFL-CIO national convention, held in St. Louis, adopted a political resolution titled “An Independent Political Voice” that calls for a break with “lesser of two evil politics.”

“For decades, the political system has failed working people,” reads the resolution submitted by Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME, and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. The resolution continues:

“Acting on behalf of corporations and the rich and powerful, the political system has been taking away, one after another, the pillars that support working people’s right to good jobs and secure benefits. … Against this, we have one choice. We must give working people greater political power by speaking with an unquestionably independent political voice, backed by a unified labor movement. The time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils.”

Convention delegates also adopted a second resolution on the subject titled, “Exploring New Directions for Labor in Electoral Politics.” This resolution points out that, “in the national elections, whether the candidates elected are from the Republican or Democratic Party, the interests of Wall Street have been protected and advanced, while the interests of labor and working people have generally been set back.”

It goes on to resolve that, “in addition to the traditional support for electoral candidates who are friends and allies of workers, the AFL-CIO also pursues a strategy of advancing our core issues through referenda and ballot initiatives and propositions at the statewide and local level; studies the viability of independent and third-party politics; and explores other reasonable means of advancing the interests of labor in electoral politics.”

“Is It Time for a Labor-Based Political Party?”

The adoption of these two resolutions followed an open forum the night before – attended by 50 convention delegates — titled, “Is It Time for a Labor-Based Political Party?” The forum was hosted by the American Postal Workers Union and the Amalgamated Transit Union. Forum speakers were Mark Dimondstein, president of APWU; Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee; Donna Dewitt, past president of the South Carolina AFL-CIO; and Mark Dudzic, national organizer of the Labor Committee for Single Payer.

In his remarks, Brother Dimondstein noted that he has been calling for a Labor Party since the passage of NAFTA in 1994, which he said showed that both Democrats and Republicans are in the pockets of the corporate class. Brother Velasquez affirmed that the Democrats “are not doing us any favors, never have and never will.”

All agreed that, yes, we need to form a new labor-based political party.

But when it came to answering the question, “Is it time to begin building such a labor-based political party?” many different points of view were expressed.

“We have to crawl before we walk, we have to walk before we run, and we have to run before we sprint,” said forum attendee Greg Junemann, president of the Professional and Technical Engineers.

“You have to have the labor movement at the table from the beginning” of the effort, “or you’re building sand castles,” Brother Dudzic explained. “We cannot build a party of labor when the working class is in retreat,” he added.

Constructing a Labor Party, Dimondstein said, will be a “long-range project and needs both community and labor support.”

Brother Velasquez and Sister Dewitt responded to these arguments by proposing that pro-Labor Party union members could get the ball rolling today by participating in electoral politics with independent labor-community slates, but starting at the local and state levels.

Need to Extend this Discussion Throughout the Labor Movement

It was clear from the speeches and discussion at the AFL-CIO convention that the labor movement is not about to bolt tomorrow from the Democratic Party. The adopted resolutions were meant more as a warning to the Democrats that they should not take labor for granted. Brother Saunders and Sister Weingarten are both members of the Democratic National Committee.

But it was also clear that the profound disaffection by the union ranks with the Democratic Party had made its way all the way to the floor of the national convention of the AFL-CIO.

When he was speaking in favor of the “Exploring New Directions” resolution, for example, Brother Dimondstein received loud applause when he pointed out that even when the Democrats gained total control of the presidency and Congress in the 2008 election, they not only didn’t follow through on labor law reform and other top worker priorities, but instead produced the Trans-Pacific Partnership “free trade” pact and similar measures. “The Democratic Party was not delivering anything,” he said, “even when it had control of the White House, the Congress and the Senate.”

Working people do not easily forget when promise after promise is betrayed.

The discussion that unfolded at the AFL-CIO convention needs to continue and be expanded throughout the labor movement. It’s a discussion that cannot be divorced from, but should be an integral part of, the fightback movements developing in labor and among labor’s community allies.

There is now a convention mandate to “stud[y] the viability of independent and third-party politics, and explore other reasonable means of advancing the interests of labor in electoral politics.”

Labor Party supporters within the trade union movement need to seize on this opening and run with it.

At a time when 61% of voters are calling for the formation of a new political party, according to a recent Gallup poll, it is time to engage the officials and ranks of the labor movement in a free-flowing discussion about what it will take to get the Labor Party off the ground. Let all voices be heard.

LABOR PARTY ADVOCATEWouldn’t it be possible, for example, for the organizers of the “Is It Time?” forum to initiate a correspondence committee, or a blog, to pursue this discussion?

While it may not yet be time to launch a Labor Party Advocates-type organization, a less-structured means of pursuing this discussion among union officials and members could and should be started, in our opinion.

We submit this proposal for broader discussion. For our part, we will continue to advocate for a Labor Party based on the unions and the communities of the oppressed. In our view, such a Labor Party would fight for the following:

  • A Massive Jobs Creation Program – End All U.S. Wars and Occupations!
  • $15 and a Union!
  • Tax the Rich, Confiscate All Speculative Funds!
  • Promote Workers’ Right to Unionize!
  • Single Payer Healthcare Now!
  • Affordable Housing/No Foreclosures!
  • Free and Quality Education, Stop Privatizations!
  • A National Energy/Mass Transit System!
  • Civil Rights and Privacy Protection!
  • Defend a Woman’s Right to Choose, Equal Pay for Equal Work!
  • End Police Violence, For Civilian Review Boards with “Teeth”!
  • Repeal All “Free Trade” Agreements!
  • Papers For All, Not One More Deportation!

[see sidebar for expanded proposed LP platform]:

This is the political alternative that working people need so desperately!

The Editors

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Nick Brana MPP

What Kind of “Major New Party” Do Working People Need?: Some Thoughts on the Movement For a People’s Party


An encouraging and potentially ground-breaking development has just taken place with the launching in early November of the Movement for a People’s Party (MPP). It was formed by “Draft Bernie for a New People’s Party,” and has the support of Cornel West and National Nurses United President RoseAnn DeMoro, among other prominent unionists and activists.

“Draft Bernie” was founded last February by Nick Brana, who was Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign outreach coordinator, and by tens of thousands of Bernie staffers and supporters who, having felt betrayed by the Democratic Party, which they accuse (correctly) of rigging the Democratic primary in 2016, reached the conclusion that Bernie and his supporters must break with the Democrats and form their own independent mass political party.

And now, no longer willing to wait for Bernie to break with the Democrats, they have gone ahead to launch this new Movement for a People’s Party.

Their November 9 press release explains the reasons for this initiative. It reads, in part:

“The past few weeks have made clear a conclusion that progressives have long fought to avoid: There is no path to power inside the Democratic Party. [Note: The authors are referring here to the proof contained in DNC Interim Chair Donna Brazile’s new book, “Hacked,” that the Democratic National Committee had rigged the 2016 Democratic Party primaries in favor of Hillary Clinton. – Ed.]

“As the Democratic Party shuts the door on progressives, Gallup shows that more Americans — 61%, up from 46% five years ago — are calling for a major new party than ever before. (Newsweek, Sept. 27, 2017)

“When ‘Draft Bernie’ was founded, few progressives were talking about starting a new party. In just a few months, ‘Draft Bernie’ has flipped the script, and the idea of building a people’s party has gone viral. Senator Sanders holds out hope that the Democratic Party can be reformed, but the American people have made their preference clear: The electorate is fed up with both establishment parties and desperate for a political alternative.

“Public anger and frustration has reached a boiling point, and neither major party is giving voice to policies that would alleviate the hardship that working people face. Last year, voters in both major parties tried to nominate presidential candidates who weren’t truly members of their party before the election. They succeeded on the right and were blocked on the left.

“A new party that supports free public college, universal health care, a living wage, higher taxes on the wealthy, getting big money out of our elections, and much of Sanders’ 2016 platform, will give Americans a party to vote for and inspire millions back to the polls.

“The major parties are crumbling. The question is not whether there will be a new party in America. The question is what will the new party stand for and who will offer the country the alternative it so desperately craves? Will it be a right-wing populist party, the kind that Trump, Bannon and Mercer foreshadow? A new neoliberal party masquerading as third way, the kind that French elites used with [current French President Emmanuel] Macron?

“Or will progressives come together to offer working people a genuine alternative? There is a new political reality in America. If progressives don’t offer an alternative that fills the anti-establishment void, someone else will, just like Trump did last year.”

Need for a Clean Break with the Democrats

This all true and good.

Not Dumb EnoughYes, the establishment parties — like all the political institutions in this country — are in deep political crisis, reflecting the more fundamental crisis of global capitalism. Growing numbers of people feel disaffected, disenfranchised, left out — and there’s a reason for this: The Democratic Party and the Republican Party are both run, financed, and controlled by Wall Street and its cronies.

And, yes, there is a political void that will be filled by the far right — as it did already in the 2016 presidential election with Trump — if an alternative that responds to the needs and aspirations of the working-class majority and all the oppressed does not come forward.

But this raises the question of what kind of party is needed, what program it should put forward [See sidebar with our proposals], and how do we get there from here.

One lesson from the past is that we need a party that makes a clean break with the Democrats and challenges for political power — not a third party that functions mainly as a pressure group on the Democratic Party. And there is reason for concern on this score in the approach taken so far by the MPP.

Interviewed on the Jimmy Dore Show ( to announce the launching of the MPP, Nick Brana, national director of the new formation, explained that what we need today is an “external third force” that pushes for progressive social change. Dore immediately chimed in to express his agreement. “Yes, the best way to reform the Democratic Party is to form a third party,” he said. Brana did not disagree.

When Brana went on to list the political formations that he is now targeting to join the “coalition of progressive groups” for the MPP, one cannot help but notice that many of the major organizations mentioned (Our Revolution, DSA, Working Families Party) are “inside-outside” — in fact, mainly “inside” — parties.

The issue of making a “clean break” with the Democratic Party cannot be dodged. It needs to be discussed and confronted head-on if there is to be any real motion toward building a truly independent political party of the working-class majority.

Need for a Party Rooted in the Working Class and Its Organizations

In his interview with Jimmy Dore, Brana noted, correctly, that the quest to build mass, anti-establishment independent parties is an international phenomenon, not just a national one. But he then pointed to three “examples of success” in forging “coalitions of progressive groups” — Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, and France Unbowed in France — that are not at all examples of independent politics.

All three political formations erupted onto the political scene overnight with support of the youth and the unemployed who were sick and tired of being misled by the ruling Socialist parties and the main trade union federations linked to them. Millions of people turned to these parties for solutions, but the three formations cited by Brana have turned their backs on their base, and on the working class as a whole, as they implement all or parts of the ruling-class austerity plans.

Syriza was swept into office, where it has implemented the European Union’s anti-working class “debt repayment” agenda, leading to millions more laid-off public sector workers and the dismantling of all social and trade union gains

Podemos has turned its back on the struggle of the Catalan people for self-determination and independence, bending to the pressure of the ruling Socialist Party and the institutions inherited from the Francoist regime. It has conflated the trade unions with their misleaders, and thrown the organized working class and its organizations under the bus.

And France Unbowed has jettisoned the very concept of the working class as it moves more and more toward a “populism” that gives the green light to many of Macron’s anti-working class directives.

What all three formations have in common is that they are not rooted in the working class and its organizations. And as such, they all have bowed, to one degree or another, to the dictates of the European Union — that is, to the dictates of global capitalism.

To be fair, Nick Brana does not share the anti-union orientation of the three formations cited above. Quite the contrary. He is excited, for example, by the recent discussion of independent politics that took place at the national AFL-CIO convention [see editorial in this issue] – a story, he told Jimmy Dore, that “went completely under the radar of the mainstream media.”

“Not only did the AFL-CIO not invite any Democrats to speak at their convention,” Brana said, “but they also approved a resolution to break with the lesser of two evils, and they held a meeting of about 50 labor officials to talk about the need for unions to launch their own party — a Labor Party — and God is it time for that!”

We could not agree more fully.

But the Labor Party – and the organized working class — cannot be just one more component of a “people’s party.” What is needed is a working class party rooted in the unions and the communities of the oppressed, a party that is linked, moreover, to the struggle of the Black liberation movement to forge its own independent Black working class political party.

Speaking at the meeting of the 50 unionists for a Labor Party at the AFL-CIO convention, Mark Dudzic, national organizer of Labor Campaign for Single Payer, hit the nail on the head when he said that, “You have to have the labor movement at the table from the beginning” of any effort to build a new political party, “or you’re building sand castles.”

Labor cannot be just one more player. It must be a major converging force.

The task now, therefore, is to get the Labor Party discussion going inside the labor movement. It is a burning necessity.

The Editors

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(among other points):

  • A Massive Jobs Creation Program – End All U.S. Wars and Occupations!

We need to rebuild our ailing infrastructure, including our roads, bridges, levees, schools, and hospitals. The trillions spent on the U.S. wars and occupations around the world should be used to create a federal job creation program with union-scale wages, benefits and pensions. The trillions should be spent on education, healthcare, and housing! Shut down all U.S. military bases overseas! Bring all U.S. troops home now!

  • $15 and a Union!

All workers deserve a living wage that lifts families out of poverty and provides a decent life. All workers deserve the peace of mind that comes with a safe job free from toxins and dangerous working conditions.

  • Tax the Rich, Confiscate All Speculative Funds!

Repeal the Trump tax hold-up and giveaway to the 1%. Make the rich pay their fare share to fund socially need services and job-creation. Re-regulate Wall Street, and confiscate all Wall Street speculative funds!

  • Promote Workers’ Right to Unionize!

Stop and reverse all “Right to Work” (for less) laws. Stop the layoffs. “Taft Hartley” and “striker replacement” laws that hurt workers must be repealed. We need the Employee Free Choice Act and full collective-bargaining rights for public employees. Stop and reverse all privatization and deregulation schemes of schools, the postal office, transit and other public services; all are aimed at lowering wages and eliminating unions.

  • Single Payer Healthcare Now!

For Single Payer healthcare now; take the insurance companies and their profits out of the healthcare equation. Hands Off Medicaid and Medicare. Strengthen and improve Social Security and Medicare!

  • Affordable Housing/No Foreclosures!

Gentrification is expanding everywhere; no working class residents should be driven from their homes by banking/mortgage predators, real estate speculators or by hard economic times!

  • Free and Quality Education, Stop Privatizations!

The cost of pre-school and higher education falls heaviest on working families, denying full opportunity to young workers. Free and quality education should be a basic human right from kindergarten through College. The “No Child Left Behind” Act (now the Every Student Succeeds Act) stifles learning, does not prepare students for higher education, is aimed at privatizing schools, and funnels students to the military. It should be repealed. Stop all funding for Charter Schools. Stop Vouchers!

  • A National Energy/Mass Transit System!

Support the nationalization of oil, gas and other energy companies to end the manipulation of energy markets and to end price gouging. We need mass transportation systems affordable to the people; retool Detroit to build high-speed trains!

  • Civil Rights and Privacy Protection!

End workplace harassment and discrimination against union activists, unorganized, immigrant and injured workers. Repeal the so-called “Patriot Acts” and other laws that weaken our civil rights. Stop all forms of discrimination in the workplace and all sexual harassment and violence against women on the job!

  • Defend a Woman’s Right to Choose, Equal Pay for Equal Work!

Roll back and reverse all the restrictions introduced over the years undermining abortion rights and Roe v. Wade. Ensure equal pay for equal work!

  • End Police Violence, For Civilian Review Boards with “Teeth”!

We must put a stop to the epidemic of police violence and killings. Killer cops must be brought to justice. We need Civilian Review Boards with the power to hire and fire. Free Mumia and all political prisoners!

  • Repeal All “Free Trade” Agreements!

Trade treaties like NAFTA and CAFTA, backed by the two parties of the bosses, are designed to depress wages and oppress workers in every country. They should be repealed and replaced with agreements that respect the rights of workers and their unions, along with enforceable and sustainable environmental protections.

  • Papers For All, Not One More Deportation!

Stop the ICE raids and deportations! Papers for all undocumented immigrants! All workers should have full rights to organize and join unions. Current policies make virtual indentured servants of immigrants, serving to lower the wages of all workers. Stop funding ICE! Tear Down the “Wall of Shame!”





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