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The Labor Party

by Ralph Nader

The Enron scandal–followed by revelations about WorldCom and other corporate shenanigans–has produced a lot of instant experts who for the first time are actually finding fault with the ethics of the nation’s biggest enterprises.

For Tony Mazzocchi this must seem a strange turn of events. For decades, Mazzocchi has sounded the alarms about corporate power and its damaging effect on the well-being of low, moderate and middle income families. For the most part, the media-and certainly the Republican and Democratic parties-have taken a see no evil, hear no evil attitude about the performance of the corporate giants which dominate the economy. Six years ago in Cleveland, Ohio, Mazzocchi was the prime mover behind the formation of the Labor Party. Under Mazzocchi, the Labor Party has been a strong voice for progressive causes ranging from universal health care to worker safety and civil rights.

Mazzocchi’s creation is a growing national organization made up of international unions and hundreds of local unions and AFL-CIO Councils and community organizations. Mazzocchi is blunt in his criticism about the deleterious effect of the unchecked power of corporations.

“We have witnessed an industrial and social meltdown advanced by and for corporate and moneyed interests,” he said recently.

Mazzocchi isn’t any kinder in his evaluation of the performance of the major political parties. In his view both the Democratic and Republican parties “have failed working people.” He sees the parties as too timid in facing the nation’s problems.

The Labor Party is specific about the failure of politicians to face national problems. Here are some of the Labor Party’s often-stated criticisms:

Our decades-old health care crisis continues. More than 44 million people lack access to health care and premiums for health care continue to rise. The wave of corporate mergers and acquisitions across national boundaries has continued unchallenged, and as a result, the nation is facing a growing concentration of global corporate power. The price for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA): 400,000 jobs lost and 40 percent real wage drop for Mexican workers. Rights guaranteed to all citizens-freedom of speech, of assembly and association-are not fully available to American workers under the restrictive anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act. As a result, the nation has the smallest proportion of private sector workers covered by union contracts of any western democracy.

The Labor Party has not run candidates for public office. Instead, it has focused its efforts on generating debate on the issues that affect working people. And Mazzocchi hopes that the Labor Party’s constant drumbeat will force the major parties to take up the causes of working families despite the parties’ long and profitable links to corporate movers and shakers.

While that may seem an optimistic goal to many, certainly the Enron and Enron-like scandals have provided credibility to the efforts of Mazzocchi and others who have sought to rein in corporate excesses and free up resources to meet critical social and economic needs. While Mazzocchi has never spared the tough words, he and his Labor Party often exude a positive attitude about the future. A recent Labor Party publication described its vision of America in this manner:

“An America where everyone who wants to work has a job at a living wage, where laws protect our rights to organize and strike, where the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share of taxes, where quality health care is a right and where solidarity puts an end to bigotry.”

In six short years, Mazzocchi has positioned the Labor Party and its allies to reach for these goals. And now-thanks to a greedy band executives–a few more people understand what Mazzocchi is talking about when he warns about the dangers of a nation and a political system which allows corporations to usurp the power and rights of the people in a democracy.

(For more information about The Labor Party visit www.thelaborparty.org)

 

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Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

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