Two hundred delegates to the 65th Convention of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) on Aug. 30 voted to back Ralph Nader, presidential candidate of the Green Party. UE was a key founder in 1996 of the Labor Party, which has not endorsed a presidential candidate.
“Union spokesman Peter Gilmore,” reported the Associated Press, “said the union usually declines to endorse presidential candidates, and has endorsed only four in its history-Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, George McGovern and Michael Dukakis. A Nader endorsement would be its first departure from backing Democrats….”
Actually, the UE web page reports that the union’s officers didn’t support the CIO’s endorsement of Harry Truman in 1948. The UE general executive board “unanimously voted to grant the national officers permission to serve in the [Henry] Wallace campaign. UE General Pres. Albert J. Fitzgerald accepted co-chairmanship of the National Wallace for President Committee and chairmanship of the campaign’s labor committee.” Subsequently, UE (which claimed 600,000 members) was one of 11 unions purged from the CIO as part of the anti-communist witch hunt.
Revolutionary socialists opposed the Wallace candidacy, running a slate headed by Farrell Dobbs, a Minneapolis Teamsters strike leader. A Socialist Workers Party spokesman, James P. Cannon, explained that “Wallace’s policy can be just as much a preparation for war as the Truman-Marshall program. … It is a matter of opinion as to which is the most effective way of preparing war against the Soviet Union.”
Cannon urged workers to reject the “theory that one kind of capitalist tactics in the expansion of American imperialism is preferable to another, and that workers should support one against another.” In 1950 Cannon’s conclusion was confirmed when Truman intervened in the Korean civil war, with Wallace’s backing.
As in 1948, some leftists and unionists today confuse liberal third parties, such as the Green Party and the New Party, with an independent workers’ party. An independent workers’ party, by definition, would not support candidates of the boss parties.
Nader, on the other hand, said early on that he believes his candidacy might help the Democrats regain a Congressional majority, which seemingly he favors. On Aug. 27, Nader explicitly threw his support to a Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Washington state, Insurance Commissioner Deborah Senn. Two days later, Senn and other Democratic Party candidates, linking arms, joined Hillary Clinton on the stage at a Democratic banquet.
Those leftists and unionists in 2000 who support Nader as a way forward to workers independent action would do well to study the dismal fate of the Progressive Party, whose members rejoined the Democratic Party despite its support of Jim Crow, anti-union laws, and the Cold War.
Hoffa Curbs Militant Teamsters Local
Local union Teamster (IBT) leaders might storm and fume behind closed doors about their problems and dealings with the higher Teamster echelons, but in public-and often among their own membership-mum’s the word.
So it’s startling to read a denunciation of Teamster President James P. Hoffa and his cohorts who control the Seattle area Joint Council, an umbrella organization of Teamster local unions.
Hoffa and his bureaucratic machine stand accused of pulling the rug from underneath Seattle Teamsters Local 174, a local union headed by a popular leader of the Teamsters for a Democratic Union, a militant caucus.
Secretary Treasurer Bob Hasegawa charges that “the Joint Council has started routinely withholding strike authorization, wielding it more as a weapon to force a settlement rather than as a weapon against the employers.”
The officer set out his charges in the union’s magazine, sent out to the union’s 7000 members. Hasegawa told his members that the higher-ups withheld the strike approval for a job-action by owner-operators at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. This resulted, he said, in Teamsters crossing Teamster picket lines.
Then after Airborne Freight workers voted to strike, the union tops withdrew their approval, “effectively undermining our leverage …. effectively giving away our bargaining unit work.”
Again, in the midst of “extremely touchy sanitation industry negotiations,” the bureaucratic hammer fell again on the local union, blocking the union from using the strike weapon. “The Joint Council said the orders came from President Hoffa that we were not to strike. Instead we were to back off and go to mediation,” the frustrated union leader said.
“Joint Council President John Rabine,” according to Hasegawa, “says that IBT President Hoffa has recently decided to re-interpret the IBT Constitution to require strike authorization prior to our local taking any action.”