Labor Party discussed at Central Labor Council dinner
Mark Piotrowski
January 2000

"We're getting our tail kicked by the Democrats AND the Republicans. And the only way we're going to change that is if we have an independent voice." That was Mark Dimondstein's message to this year's Central Labor Council dinner about the Labor Party, the new political party that was formed in 1996 out of the trade union movement. The dinner featured Dimondstein's keynote address and awards for the Central Labor Council President Elsie Allen (Union Activist of the Year) and Local 234 Plumbers and Pipefitters Union (Outstanding Local of the Year).

Dimondstein, a field organizer for the American Postal Workers Union (APWU), talked to over 100 union members, working people and community activists who attended the dinner about why the Labor Party was formed: The need for a union-based, labor-driven, independent political party that is made up by and for workers.

And it couldn't come at a more necessary time, he argued. At a time when CEO salaries are now 449 times the salary of the average factory worker (up from 41 times in 1980), the richest 10% own 73% of the wealth in the United States, 44 million people are without health insurance and millions more are under-insured or poorly insured, and U.S. workers spend more time on the job than in any other industrialized country (an average of 2000 hours a year, compared to 1350 hours a year in Norway), the trade union movement had to do something. "We formed [the Labor Party] under the slogan: The bosses have two parties, we need one of our own," said Dimondstein, who was president of his local union in Greensboro, North Carolina from 1986 to 1998.

A member of the Labor Party's Interim National Council, Dimondstein outlined the Party's two current organizing drives: the 28th Amendment and Just Health Care campaigns.

The 28th Amendment campaign seeks to amend the US Constitution to include a guarantee to a job a living wage, about $10 in 1996. He stated that this is an example of how the Labor Party is trying to reshape the political landscape through it's commitment to what workers really need--something the Republicans and Democrats are unwilling and unable to do.

"What can be more fundamental than the right to economic security, to a guaranteed job?", Dimondstein said about the 28th Amendment campaign. "And we don't even think in those terms. The Labor Party is on a course to change how we think about ourselves in that sense. And to demand, in time, that our Constitution of the United States GUARANTEE the right to a job at a living wage. Certainly that call sets us apart from the parties of big business."

The Just Health Care campaign is focused on winning national health care for every man, woman and child. The Just Health Care plan has no out-of-pocket expenses, total choice of doctors and caregivers, and is not tied to employment. Under the Labor Party's plan, health care would be a guaranteed right, not a privilege. Dimondstein pointed out that the way to do this is to take the insurance companies out of our health care system and create a national health insurance system.

"There is a basic conflict between making a profit and treating people when they need healthcare. So now you have insurance companies determining what the heck our doctors can do because their bottom line has to reflect enough profit for those millions to go to the CEOs." But, he said, "Whether this party succeeds is up to people like you and me."

In presenting the Pat Bostwick Award for the Outstanding Local of the Year to Local 234 Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, Central Labor Council President Elsie Allen said "[they have] one of the most active delegates on the CLC that we have ever had."

Matthew Marsh, North Central Florida Central Labor Council Treasurer, presented the Joe Broxton Memorial Award, which recognizes "Outstanding service to the community and the labor movement by an individual," to Elsie Allen, CLC President and the Business Agent for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Local 75;

"Never have I seen one person with so many good ideas and projects and one so adept at finding volunteers to make those projects happen. She's walked on picket lines and waved protest signs and dragged many of us along with her, all the way from Quincy, Florida to 13th Street here in Gainesville," said Marsh.

For more information about the Labor Party, their website is at
Memberships in the Labor Party are $20 a year, send to P.O. Box 53177, Washington, DC 20009. Subscription to the bimonthly paper is included in the membership. Joining the Labor Party does not affect your voter registration.

The Alachua County Labor Party Organizing Committee meets on Friday, January 21 at the Civic Media Center at 6:30 p.m. For more information call Jenny at 378-5655 or 373-4841 or Mark at 392-0276 ext. 249.

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