Labor Day Statement: Working People Need Our Own Political Party
by Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones, Green Party candidates for New York Governor and Lt. Governor.
The 1% owns two parties. Working people need one of our own.
As a working Teamster and a union Teacher running for Governor and Lt. Governor in New York State on the Green ticket, we are as committed to organizing an independent working people's party as we are to the pro-labor policies in our platform.
Our platform, A Green New Deal for New York, calls for economic human rights that are long sought but unfulfilled in our society. It renews the call for the economic human rights that President Franklin Roosevelt raised in his 1944 State of the Union address when he urged Congress to enact a second, economic bill of rights. The civil rights movement renewed the call in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the 1966 Freedom Budget for All Americans, and the 1968 Poor People's Campaign, but improved the call with the addition that our schools and housing must be desegregated. As the freedom movement turned from civil rights to economic rights, it understood that separate is inherently unequal and that no sub-group of working people is secure in its political and economic rights until all of us are secure.
Economic Human Rights
The economic human rights in our Green New Deal include the right to a job, a living wage, affordable housing, health care, a good education, and clean energy and a sustainable environment.
We would provide the job guarantee through public jobs for the unemployed in public works and services that meet community-defined needs for infrastructure and services. We know how to do this. We did it with the Depression-era Works Progress Administration where projects employing the unemployed were locally planned and centrally funded through progressive taxes.
We would guarantee living wages by making the minimum wage a living wage of at least $15 an hour. The 1963 March on Washington called for a $2 minimum wage, which is $15.57 today adjusted for inflation.
We would make housing more affordable in New York City by repealing the Urstadt Law that pre-empts municipal authority over rent control. We would expand affordable housing through public housing throughout the state that is far better socially and environmentally than the old projects, more about which below.
We would make health care universal through a state single-payer health plan. No premiums, deductibles, or co-pays. Just health care, free at the point of delivery. The state's own study shows that under this public health plan New Yorkers would pay $28 million less by 2019 than we do in taxes plus payments for private insurance under the Obamacare mandates. Half the members of the state Assembly are co-sponsors. But the Democratic leadership refuses to bring it to a vote.
We would make a good education available to all by fully funding public education, from pre-K through tuition-free CUNY and SUNY. We would scrap high-stakes testing linked to Common Core, which is designed to define the students, teachers, and schools in disadvantaged communities as failing in order the privatize those schools into non-union charter schools. We would attack the roots the achievement gap and poorly performing schools in the poverty and under-resourcing that is concentrated by race and class segregation. We would fire all the expensive contractors from the test-punish-and-privatize industry and return control of public education to professional teachers in collaboration with parents, students, and elected school boards in local communities.
Our Green New Deal stands for these economic human rights – plus clean energy. Rejecting fracking and building a 100% clean energy system will create 4.5 of living-wage jobs, lower electric rates to support a manufacturing revival in the cities and towns of the upstate rustbelt, and make New York a global leader in the energy transition the world must make to avert catastrophic climate change.
It is time to recognize that the Democratic Party is not the party of working people it claims to be, but in fact the world's second most enthusiastic capitalist party after the Republicans. It is no friend of labor. 70 years after FDR called for the economic bill of rights and 50 years after the civil rights movement called for it again, the Democrats have not delivered on one of these rights. The Democrats have had legislative majorities plus the executive office many times over the last 70 years in our cities, states, and the federal government. The Democratic leadership doesn't even give lip service anymore to full employment, universal health care, public housing, or tuition-free public higher education. The New Deal Democrats have been replaced by the corporate New Democrats.
It is also time to recognize that the Democrats like the Republicans have abandoned the commitment to racial justice embodied in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) and the Civil Rights (1964), Voting Rights (1965), and Fair Housing (1968) acts. Today New York State has the most segregated schools and housing in the nation. It is a double segregation by class as well as race. This hyper-segregation concentrates poverty and isolates disadvantaged communities from good jobs, good schools, and good services, from neighborhood grocery stores and bank branches to affordable public transportation. Together with race and class bias in the criminal justice system, segregation has yielded the school-to-prison pipeline that has filled our prisons with black, brown, and poor people. Yet the Democrats and Republicans don't even acknowledge segregation, let alone propose remedies.
We say it is time for a cabinet level civil rights department in the executive branch of state government to make sure that anti-discrimination laws affecting education, employment, and housing are finally and fully enforced. We call for a Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission to examine the impact of the war on drugs and mass incarceration on our most disadvantaged communities and to recommend policies to repair the damages. We call for a new public housing program that does not concentrate poverty and segregation in large scale projects like the old public housing program did. We would build new high-quality public housing in the cities and the suburbs that are humanly scaled on scattered sites, with residents of mixed income and ethnic backgrounds. They would be green buildings, clean-energy positive and carbon negative. Our public housing program would create living-wage jobs, affordable housing, and clean energy as well as desegregation.
We would pay for the Green New Deal by restoring the more progressive taxes and revenue sharing that New York State had in the 1970s. The more progressive personal income tax would give 95% of us a tax cut while raising $8 billion more in revenues. Cutting corporate welfare tax breaks would save $7 billion. Retaining instead of rebating the Stock Transfer Tax would yield $12 to $16 billion a year. That totals to about $30 billion, which would add about 20% to the current state budget of $140 billion. By restoring state revenue sharing with local governments to the 1979 statutory standard of 8% of state revenues (it is less than 1% today), our local governments could provide real relief from our highest-in-the-nation property taxes and still fully fund local schools and municipal services.
Organize for Power
Our campaign is as much about organizing a party of working people as advocating for pro-labor policies because we need power as much as we need good ideas. We need get organized to make our own decisions and speak and act for ourselves. Nobody can represent us but us.
We need to organize ourselves to build solidarity across the many lines that now divide us and enable a tiny wealthy elite to rule over us. These lines include race, gender, sexual orientation, residence (urban, suburban, rural), unionized and unorganized workers, public sector and private sector workers, and low-wage and middle-income workers.
We can no longer accept to be merely mobilized by the middle class professional liberals who staff the unions, political campaigns, and nonprofits. That doesn't work for us. It doesn't draw on our intelligence. It doesn't build our own independent workers' power. Instead being just mobilized by someone else, we need to get ourselves organized, at the grassroots, in democratic local branches of an independent party of working people. And we need to fund the party with membership dues. Our political independence depends on our financial independence.
Barring a miraculous upset in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, the Green ticket will be the only progressive choice on the New York ballot in 2014. We are running against a corporate New Democrat in Andrew Cuomo who has received on huge donations from the financial oligarchy, the real estate barons, and the big business elites. He has returned these financial favors with tax breaks for the 1% that are paid for by cuts to the public schools and services used by the 99%. The Democrats in the legislature joined the Republicans in rubber stamping these budget attacks on working people -- with no dissent!
Now is the time for an electoral revolt by working people. The corporate elites are attacking working people's standard of living and destroying the very climate and ecology upon which our lives depend. Now is the time for working people build the independent movement, party, and power that we need to reform our society so that it works for all of the people.
Howie Hawkins and Brian Jones