The Working Families Party and our supporters have both an opportunity and a challenge in front of us, both unmatched in the party’s history. I’ll discuss these in a moment. But first I want to talk about our responsibility.
We have built a potent machine. Local 802 is a proud member and is part of it.
As this issue of Allegro goes to press, the state legislature will decide whether to pass the Fair Share for Health Care Act, which would ensure that working New Yorkers receive health care from their employers. And you know what they will be thinking when they decide whether to pass the bill? They will be thinking about what the editors of the Daily News wrote last Sunday:
“Politicians who want the WFP endorsement oppose this bill at their peril.”
Why? Because, as the same editorial says, the WFP is “an increasingly potent electoral force.”
Every politician in the state knows this.
Reckon with us, oppose our priorities, stand in the way of New York’s working families — at your own peril!
With the power we have comes responsibility. Responsibility to use our muscle wisely, judiciously and for the good of working families. We have done that.
Let me talk about we did in 2005 — what you did.
You passed living wage laws in Nassau County and Syracuse.
You joined with allies to pass laws in Suffolk and New York City that require Wal-Mart and other big box stores to provide decent benefits to their workers.
And you stopped George Bush and Tom DeLay from succeeding in their ultimate power grab — their attempt to steal our retirement savings by privatizing Social Security. We stopped them dead in their tracks.
We used our power responsibly — for good.
And in 2004 we raised the minimum wage and gave one million of New York’s lowest-paid workers a raise.
And we gave a kick in the ass to the status quo that finally — after 30 years — got the first reform of the Rockefeller drug laws passed.
We used our power responsibly — for good.
How do we get our power? By holding politicians accountable. By electing good ones, and defeating bad ones. Hundreds every year.
Get in our way? Stand with management over labor? Stand with landlords over tenants? Stand with the wealthy over working people? Stand in the way of working families? Working Families will get you out of the way!
This year, as I said, we have an opportunity and a challenge.
We have an opportunity to increase our power by helping to elect Eliot Spitzer. We can help the people’s lawyer become the people’s governor — a fitting role for what is, after all, the people’s party.
We can give Eliot Spitzer a mandate for progressive change. If 200,000 votes — or maybe more — come in for Eliot Spitzer on the Working Families Party line, that is a mandate for better jobs, affordable health care, fair funding for our schools and real campaign finance reform. Voting on Row E is how we make sure the people’s governor can and will fight for us.
And we have a challenge. Our national government — the presidency and both houses of Congress — are in the hands of people who come as close to true evil as we have ever seen in our nation’s history. Is this crowd worse than Nixon? Worse than Herbert Hoover? I think so. Worse than the Dixiecrats and the Robber Barons? A close call.
They lie, and they cheat and they steal from working families. They keep on going further and further. A minimum wage that’s never been lower. A judiciary that’s never been worse. Tax cuts upon tax cuts upon tax cuts, all for millionaires and billionaires. The greatest divide between the rich and the poor since 1929.
And then the war in Iraq. And maybe another one in Iran. These are bad people. But they may have gone too far.
This November may be the moment when New York becomes the battleground for taking back our country, a moment for us to draw a line in the sand that protects working families for the final two years of Republican rule.
I’m talking about 15 congressional seats around the country that could shift control of the House of Representatives, five of which might be here in New York. I’m talking about the fight to take back Congress.
That is our challenge.
We can do it. Together — teachers, painters, musicians, doormen — together — lobbying, marching, voting, organizing. Because the state of the party has never been stronger.
Bob Master is co-chair of the Working Families Party. This is an adapted text from his state of the party address at the WFP state convention on June 3. The primary election is Sept. 12; the general election is Nov. 7. To register or to find our your poll site, call (866) VOTE-NYC.