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  • Writer's pictureKaila Morris

The Rise of the Working Families Party

As organizers across the country attempt to break the stronghold of the two-party system, while also working within those constraints to elect Joe Biden and extract progressive concessions from him, into the fray comes the Working Families Party (WFP), an independent alternative to machine and corporate-dominated institutional Democrats with deep roots in New York politics where it was founded in 1998. According to WFP’s Philadelphia digital and outreach organizer Stephen Drain, the party understands that voting is a tactic and not an end itself. That understanding of power stems from the WFP’s working class base of support among union members and financial backing from labor--an understanding distilled into the grammar of organizing: militant and organized movements are the source of political accountability at the ballot box. “If we're standing behind Joe Biden we need to pressure him and hold him accountable and hold all elected officials accountable,” Drain said.

In New York, through a process called fusion voting, which allows candidates on the ballot to run on different party lines, the WPF has been a reliable bulwark against anti-labor legislation and candidates. The political terrain is much different in Philadelphia where the advantages of fusion voting don't exist. But after the successful election of Councilmember Kendra Brooks, the party has shown that it can make inroads outside of its New York powerbase and win in a single-party system, too. Buoyed by recent victories in Philadelphia, Drain pulls no punches in what the WFP’s theory of change is in Pennsylvania: “Right now we’re trying to flip the State House here. We want to make sure that we hold the majority. The Republicans hold it now, which in many ways keeps us from seeing real change.”

As voters prepare for the likely event that with a surge in voting-by-mail in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Election Day results won’t be known until all votes are counted. The Philadelphia WFP is prepared for any eventuality. “We need to be working on the fallout of a Biden loss or a Trump loss. Either way, there’s going to be some necessary action, ” Drain said.

Keep up with Working Family Party initiatives on their website.

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