'Why I'm voting for Ralph Nader for US president'

October 16, 1996

By Malik Miah

"It's better to vote for something you want and not get it, than to vote for something you don't want, and get it." — Eugene V. Debs, turn of the century labour and socialist leader who was a candidate for president of the United States in 1900, 1904, 1908, 1912 and 1920, receiving almost a million votes.

That's why I'm voting for Ralph Nader for president of the United States, and his vice-presidential running mate, Winona LaDuke, a northern Minnesota Native American political activist.

Nader received the Green Party nomination at its national convention on August 19 in Los Angeles. He is running to challenge the corporate two party "duopoly", and to launch a national movement for democracy, electoral reforms and independent third-party politics.

Nader is a long-time champion of public interest and safety, democracy, individual and community empowerment and human rights and the environment. His civic leadership has resulted in numerous state and federal laws and programs, including the Freedom of Information Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Safe Drinking Water Act and meat and poultry inspection laws.

Nader is pro-labour. He has spent a lifetime fighting corporate power and abuses on behalf of workers, consumers, taxpayers, and ordinary people. Nader's concern with health and safety led him into campaigns for union democracy in order to counter the collusion of employers and union bureaucrats.

One of his concerns was protecting "whistle blower" truck drivers who complained of unsafe conditions in the trucking industry. He took on Teamster boss Frank Fitzsimmons with a Professional Drivers Council (PROD) headed by Nader associate Arthur Fox. In 1979 PROD merged its ranks and assets into Teamsters for a Democratic Union.

Nader also joined the Black Lung Movement of West Virginia coal miners when they went on a wildcat strike in opposition to Tony Boyle's leadership of the United Mine Workers. In 1969 he worked closely with reformer Joseph (Jock) Yablonski, who lost the rigged election for president and was shot and killed by Boyle's thugs along with his wife and daughter.

Shocked by the tragedy, Congress passed the Coal Mine Health and Safety Act advocated by Nader and the dissident miners. Eventually both the Teamsters and Mine Workers unions were transformed by rank-and-file movements.

Nader opposed both the anti-labour NAFTA and GATT agreements and calls for their repeal. He advocates measures to help workers to defend their rights and form unions. "The ability to organise an industrial union is almost impossible in this country because of the way the labour laws and the implementation of them are rigged in favour of the employer."

Nader says it will take "More than a change in leadership of the AFL-CIO" to rekindle the labour movement and "articulate an agenda of labour democracy. Organised labour always needs a burr under its saddle from the workers themselves to advance union democracy for clean responsive unions and a 'shop floor' agenda for a full employment economy." Nader supports the newly created Labor Party.

As Nader told the New York Times: "The people need more political choices and less cynical political horse-trading. Both the Democrats and the Republicans refuse to change, won't give up the special interest money, won't reform and give the people more power. This campaign isn't about me becoming President; it's about getting a new political movement going for the long haul."

Many Clinton supporters say, "Won't Nader be a 'spoiler' taking votes from Clinton?". "Nobody but Clinton can beat Clinton", Nader wrote in the July 8 Nation magazine. "He is too unprincipled to lose to Dole, who anyway cannot reinvent himself." The RepubliCrats have already spoiled the system.

"One thing politicians do understand", Nader added, "is rejection. When voters are deciding how they wish to use their vote, they should ask themselves how best to send a clear message. The Greens and other progressives are in the early building stages of a people-first, democratic political movement for future years. They deserve our attention because they are centering on the basic issues of representative government, one of whose purposes is to strengthen the usable tools of democracy; the other, in Thomas Jefferson's prophetic words, is 'to curb the excesses of the monied interests.'"

The California Greens have about 80,000 registrants, and some polls indicate Nader could get as high as 12% of the state's votes.
[Submitted to Tradewinds, newspaper of International Association of Machinists Local Lodge 1781. Slightly abridged. Malik Miah is a member of the Communication Committee of LL #1781.]