the failure of organizing

colist at colist at
Fri Nov 19 20:05:45 CST 2004

[ed: James adds the Working Families Party to the discussion.]

From: James_DeFilippis at

James DeFilippis
Department of Black and Hispanic Studies
Baruch College, CUNY
New York, NY 10010
----- Forwarded by James DeFilippis/academic/baruch on 11/17/2004 12:10 PM

"Dan Cantor, WFP"
<wfp at workingfamilie To: james_defilippis at> cc:
Subject: WFP Update: The Hidden Winner
11/17/2004 11:23 AM

Below is a wrap-up article from the New York Times on the role of the
WFP in this year’s elections in New York. It’s a good read.

We also want to thank everyone who voted on Row E, told a friend to do,
sent out e-mail messages to lists large and small, and in general helped
us have a good election day. We wish the whole country had had one.

There’s a lot of work to do, and a lot of analyzing yet to be done. But
it does seem worth remembering that the WFP approach – start small,
think long-term, combine issue work with electoral work, appeal to the
best in people, be patient -- is bearing fruit.

We’d love to hear from you. If you can take a minute to give us your
take on the WFP and the national election generally, please do so.

P.s. To support our work, click on If everyone reading this
became a $5 - $10 per month sustainer, we would be able to spread the
WFP model to a few new states. Sounds good to us, and we hope to you

Labor-Backed Third Party Emerges as Statewide Force

Published: November 7, 2004

With all the attention focused on the re-election of President Bush and
the record voting for New York State's senior United States senator,
Charles E. Schumer, the hidden winner of last Tuesday's election may
well have been the Working Families Party, which established itself as
an emerging political force statewide by getting a little-known
candidate elected district attorney in Albany County.

The small grass-roots party, which has strong ties to labor, had already
helped defeat an incumbent in the Assembly, elected a member of the New
York City Council and pressed the State Legislature to pass an increase
in the minimum wage. But before Tuesday, it had never flexed its
political muscle so far outside the downstate region.

Suddenly, what seemed to be a city-centered political phenomenon became
a potential statewide force. Although the Nassau County executive,
Thomas R. Suozzi, has talked about beating incumbents in his Fix Albany
campaign, his results have been limited. But the Working Families Party
has, more often than not, succeeded by backing candidates who go on to
do well at the polls.

In so doing, the party has rekindled a New York tradition of strong
third parties, one that has faded with the collapse of the Liberal
Party, an identity crisis within the Conservative Party and the lack of
a popular leader for the Independence Party. New York is unusual among
states in that it allows third parties to cross-endorse major party

"Clearly they are in the ascendancy at the moment," said E. J. McMahon,
a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative policy group,
who said the real test of the Working Families Party would be in how it
fares during the 2006 election for governor.

The party emerged last week not only as a powerful organizing force in
helping elect David Soares district attorney in Albany County, but also
as a crucial second line on the ballot for candidates in close races.

State Senator Nicholas A. Spano, a Westchester County Republican seeking
re-election, earned the party's endorsement for his support for raising
the minimum wage, and landed about 1,500 votes on that line. The winner
of Mr. Spano's race has still not been determined, but if he wins, it
will mean the Working Families Party will have given him a critical
advantage and perhaps even the margin of victory.

"They have connected a set of clear and understandable moral and
political principles to a political machine with enormous muscle," said
Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, a Westchester Democrat who is
considering running for attorney general in 2006. "It is an irresistible

The Working Families Party was started in 1998 by a coalition of labor
and community groups that were looking to advance an agenda focused on
typically liberal issues, like the minimum wage and overhauling the
strict Rockefeller-era drug laws. Structurally, the party is a hybrid,
charging its members dues, about $5 a month, while also having a line on
the ballot, which it won in 1998 when it backed the City Council speaker
at the time, Peter F. Vallone, in his campaign for governor. The party
also gets financial support from labor and other organizations.

The group, which was built around a core that included the
Communications Workers of America, the United Automobile Workers and the
Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as Acorn,
agreed to be focused and disciplined in its agenda. It has, for example,
largely set aside liberal social causes that might alienate some of its
target working-class audience. The goal, founding members said, is to
build a party that will attract blue-collar Republicans as well as
liberal Democrats, along with the growing pool of independent voters.

So far the formula appears to be working. Though the Working Families
Party has just 20,000 registered members, Senator Schumer drew about
150,000 votes on the party's line, a record for it. But the Democratic
presidential candidate, Senator John Kerry, won only 120,000 on the
party's line, suggesting, party officials said, that some or all of
30,000 voters who chose Mr. Schumer on its line also voted for President

Dan Cantor, executive director of the party, said those who vote on its
line are "culturally conservative but economically populist: white
working-class people who think the Democratic Party is distant from

And, he said, "we get a lot of votes in 'of color' turf. Blacks and
Latinos don't like to be taken for granted by Democrats and don't want
to throw their votes to Republicans."

Political analysts said the Working Families Party stands out because it
has succeeded where the Democratic and Republican Parties have largely
failed in New York State, getting back to basics, relying heavily on
door-to-door operations with very strong grass-roots organizing.

At the moment the Conservatives still draw many more votes on their
line, making them an important player for Republicans. This year, they
ran their own candidate for the Senate, Dr. Marilyn F. O'Grady, who got
more than 200,000 votes.

If the Working Families Party has a weakness, it may be its structure as
a coalition, which requires consensus among varied groups. But Bob
Master, political director for the Communications Workers of America
District 1 and a co-chairman of the party, said having a ballot line is
an incentive that keeps people committed to finding compromise.

"This is the best coalition that any of us have been in because nobody
wants to walk away permanently," he said. "Progressive coalitions tend
to fall apart because people get angry, they walk away, they take their
marbles and go home. Because of the power of the endorsement, the line
has so much power that no one feels they can walk away."



Jim Duncan, Bertha Lewis, and Bob Master
WFP Co-Chairs

Dan Cantor

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Working Families Party
88 Third Avenue, 4th Floor
Brooklyn, New York 11217

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