Since its founding in 1998, the Working Families Party (WFP) has emerged as New York State’s liveliest progressive political force. It has helped Democrats take back both the US Congress and the State Senate by bringing disaffected Democrats, union members and independents into a coalition with insurgent Democratic candidates.
In 2009, a WFP-backed slate of unusually good progressive candidates for New York City Council, Comptroller and Public Advocate (Nation contributor Bill De Blasio) all won in a landslide. And this September, the party helped defeat notorious state senator Pedro Espada, who had held Albany hostage by threatening to become a Republican and almost single-handedly blocked tenants’ rights legislation from coming to the floor.
Most importantly, the WFP has maintained a laser-like focus on advancing a policy agenda informed by a commitment to fairness, democracy and equality. Victories at the ballot box have translated into victories in the legislature. The WFP has been instrumental in raising New York’s minimum wage, reforming the draconian Rockefeller drug laws, passing one of the most ambitious state-wide Green Jobs programs in the nation, raising taxes on the wealthy instead of cutting schools and healthcare for the poor and holding moderate Democrats’ feet to the fire to make sure health care reform did not fall apart this past spring.
Right now, the WFP is campaigning for a universal paid sick days bill in New York City. Without the WFP, the bill—which would give 1 million New Yorkers paid sick days for the first time—might languish in obscurity. Instead it has over two-thirds of the council signed on as sponsors.
The Nation has not only covered the WFP’s advances and progress over these last twelve years, but also played a small but significant role in the party’s birth. We mobilized our readers and community through editorials and outreach to help the party reach the 50,000 votes needed in 1998 to secure a line on the New York State ballot.
But the WFP’s hard-earned victories have also earned it powerful enemies. Over the past year, the party has come under withering attack from the New York Post, right-wing blogs, the Real Estate Board of New York, Chamber of Commerce, New York Daily News, RNC operative Roger Stone and various other malefactors of wealth.