Labor Party Ponders Next Step

The Labor Party will seek to consolidate its first two years of organization with its first constitutional convention November 13-15 in Pittsburgh. The party, which held an organizational convention in 1996, has the support of five international unions, several regional labor bodies, scores of local unions and thousands of individual members, according to the monthly Labor Notes.

The party will debate its approach to elections, with its Electoral Commission proposing that the party start running its own candidates, who will be held accountable to the party and its platform. According to the proposal the party would not endorse candidates of other parties or allow Labor Party candidates to run simultaneously on other party tickets, as the New Party promotes with its "fusion" campaigns, usually with Democratic candidates. Local Labor Party campaigns would need approval of the National Council and campaigns would have to be "credible," rather than merely educational.

"Many chapter activists believe that the requirements preclude any campaigns in the near term," Kim Moody and Jane Slaughter wrote in Labor Notes. "The sad fact is that there is probably not a single city in the country where the labor movement is both strong enough and willing to mount a credible Labor Party campaign."

The convention also will discuss organizing around issues such as national health care, protecting Social Security, trade and labor law reform. For more information, call the Labor Party at 202-234-5194.

Arcata, Calif., Measures Democracy, Corporations

Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County, a small grassroots group centered in Arcata, Calif., has managed through its offshoot Citizens Concerned About Corporations to get a local initiative on the Nov. 3 general election ballot challenging corporate rule. Measure F, the Arcata Advisory Initiative on Democracy and Corporations, calls for amending the California Constitution to clearly declare the authority of citizens over all corporations. It also calls on the city government to establish policies that ensure democratic control over corporations conducting business within the city.

"We believe that it is the first ballot initiative in U.S. history on the subject of dismantling corporate rule," said Paul Cienfuegos, founding director of Democracy Unlimited.

The group gathered 1,110 legal signatures in just 26 days to place the initiative on the Arcata ballot. "We made a point of meeting with many local business owners to let them know that we were not targeting local businesses, and most of them were either supportive or neutral, with two businesses ultimately endorsing the Initiative," Cienfuegos said.

The only opposition was an editorial in the Eureka Times-Standard, the local daily, owned by MediaNews Group Corporation, the seventh-largest newspaper corporation in the country. The newspaper refused to allow the group a prompt editorial response, but the local community-access radio station gave them a platform where they could reframe the editor's refusal as "yet another perfect example of a distant corporation lecturing a community about how it should spend its money, and in the process, banning the community from even responding." After the radio station aired the story, the newspaper printed the group's response.

For information, contact Democracy Unlimited, P.O. Box 27, Arcata CA 95518; email cienfuegos@igc.org; web: (www.monitor.net/duhc).

RIGHT TO LIE--The Washington state Supreme Court has found that politicians and their committees have a right to lie. The court, in a 5-4 decision in June, declared that a law that sought to punish politicians and political committees for telling lies in campaign advertising violates free speech rights. The law, passed in 1985 and revised in 1989 to make it more restrictive, authorizes a judge to void the election and/or fine offending politicians up to $10,000 if the state can show the person who made the false statement knew it was false and made it with "actual malice."

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