Friday, September 18, 2009

Working Families Party Build Progressive Power

Working Families Party Builds Progressive Power

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The Working Families Party was started in 1998 by a group of labor and community activists who wanted to reinvigorate the fight for economic and social justice in New York. The Nation played a small but significant role in the party's birth, running an editorial calling on our New York readers, who then numbered over 20,000 (we've grown!) to vote for the WFP candidate on the party's ballot line.

Since then, the WFP has proven itself as having both policy ambition and electoral savvy, winning victories on a higher state minimum wage, reform of the draconian Rockefeller drug laws, ensuring that the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes, county-level living wage rules, public financing of elections, increased aid to education, and more. Its most recent victory was the passage of Green Jobs legislation in the New York Senate last week. The WFP built an unprecedented statewide coalition of businesses, labor unions, community groups and environmentalists to lobby on the Green Jobs bill.

"This bill would put New York on track to become a national leader in energy efficiency," said Dan Cantor, Working Families Party Executive Director. "Millions of homeowners will get the chance to green their homes and see big energy savings while reducing our carbon footprint. And all that construction work means tens of thousands of badly needed high-skill, living-wage jobs. It's a win-win-win."

A Center for American Progress report described the legislation as allowing for "mass-scale energy-efficiency improvements--or retrofits--of 1 million housing units over the next five years....[it] can serve as a model for the nation."

This bill offers exactly the kind of cutting-edge ideas one can expect from the WFP as states continue to struggle with shrinking budgets during these tough times.

"We think of the role New York State played in the 1920s as a laboratory for the New Deal," WFP co-chair Bob Master told Crain's New York Business. "Our goal is to replicate that for a new era."

While the WFP has demonstrated plenty of statewide muscle in recent years, tomorrow's New York City primary will be a measure of the party's strength locally. Among the WFP's endorsements are six community organizers for city council and Richard Aborn for Manhattan District Attorney.

What The Nation wrote over a decade ago still holds true today --the Working Families Party is building progressive power at the state level.

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