s/r home  | issues  | authors  | 24 contents
Report from the G/GPUSA Negotiating Committee
Richard J. Whitney (chair), Starlene Rankin, Julia Willebrand,
John Stith, Jeff Sutter, Steve Welzer
At the Green Congress, May 28, 2000, we were elected as the new negotiating team charged with attempting to negotiate a proposed agreement to create a unified national Green Party, in accordance with the "Proposal for Genuine Unity"—which stated that "genuine unity should be based on the Negotiating Committee of the G/GPUSA advocating" the points described therein. (see attachment #2)
Our Team had several planning meetings via conference call, during August and September and met in person the evening of September 30, the day before our negotiations with the ASGP team began in Boston on Sunday, October 1.
We reviewed our guidelines for the negotiations, our "Points of Genuine Unity" and we reviewed the "Feinstein Plan for a Single National Green Party," the document that the ASGP CC approved earlier this year.
Planning the Meeting
Letters between our two groups were exchanged during August and September. (attachment #3) In those communications, we agreed to meet all day Sunday, October 1 and all day Monday, October 2. Later, after finding out that there would be a big Nader rally in Boston on Sunday afternoon on October 1, we suggested to the ASGP that we meet in the morning and the evening on October 1st, with a break in the afternoon to attend and/or work the rally. Later the ASGP told us they didn't want to meet Sunday night—so we didn't
During September, Starlene Rankin and Greg Gerritt interviewed two mediators, Gabrielle Gropman and Michael Moffitt from Harvard Law School, and recommended to our two teams to hire them—which we did.
Gabrielle is the administrator of the Harvard Mediation Program and has a background in mediation. Michael is a Mediation Prof and does mediations with other groups. Both Gabrielle and Michael were paid $500 each for the two days of work. We paid $500 and ASGP paid $500. We felt the mediators did an excellent job and they wrote to us after the meetings to tell us that it was a positive experience for them too. (see attachment #4)
The mediators suggested their own agenda and used their own process and exercises to identify conflict areas and possible solutions. The ASGP team never did a point-by-point critique of the Points of Genuine Unity and we never did a point-by-point critique of the Feinstein plan but the areas of conflict were sufficiently identified and we put together a compromise by breaking down into working groups to attack them.
The Proposal [Attachment #1: the joint proposal]
By their very nature, negotiations that attempt to settle differences, if they are to succeed, presuppose that there will be some compromising on the part of both of the parties doing the negotiating. The Joint Proposal that emerged from this meeting reflects that. There was give-and-take from both sides and the Joint Proposal, to put it crudely, is a product that reveals the most "give" that we were going to get from ASGP and the most "give" that they were going to get out of us. From our perspective, it could have been better and it could have been worse. What must be kept in mind is that their negotiators are probably saying the same thing.
We did not address any "merger," per se. The negotiators recognized that ASGP filing for National Committee status is a certainty and will likely happen soon, that there exist two major national Green organizations that claim the mantle of being a Green "party," that most Greens nationally want a unified national party and do not want to see it self-destruct like the Reform Party, and that, therefore, it was desirable to try to come up with a structure that most Greens currently belonging to either or both organizations could accept—not necessarily like, but accept. The political platform and program of that new party was not discussed—but it, too, will be hammered out and amended as needed through the deliberative democratic process of the new Green Party of the United States, via a structure that reflects the input of G/GPUSA.
We believe that we reached the best agreement possible to help ensure that the new Green Party and its National Committee is structured in a way that at least somewhat reflects our concerns, values and perspective. It doesn't completely reflect G/GPUSA values but the only proposal that possibly could would be a proposal for ALL Greens to adopt OUR model—and that just wasn't going to happen because not all Greens agree with it. If the only acceptable form of organization is one identical to G/GPUSA, then there was no point to negotiating anything. But the majority of our members, like the majority of Greens nationwide, obviously wanted us to negotiate; otherwise, the last Congress wouldn't have elected a Negotiating Committee and adopted guidelines for the negotiations. That it did so reflects the prevailing sentiment that our members want one unified national political party.
This proposal does reflect many of our values, as articulated in our Points of Genuine Unity. In order to create a legal National Committee that will allow us to enjoy the benefits of existence as a national political party, we had to compromise on the question of dues-based membership organization (and, we can acknowledge that there are principled reasons for opposing dues, e.g., discouraging membership from poor and low-income people, even if we ultimately disagree with those reasons). But points 2 and 3 do at least get us as much as we can, short of having national dues, in favor of grass-roots based financing.
Point 4 was taken directly from point 7 of our Proposal for Genuine Unity and will help ensure that the state party organizations will be democratic. Points 5 and 6 represent a major compromise by the ASGP negotiating team. The very definition of the ASGP has been that state parties choose the delegates to the national level, whereas the historical tradition of G/GPUSA has been to have locals directly control the national level. In Points 5 and 6, the ASGP negotiating team yielded and placed control of the new National Committee of the Green Party of the United States in the hands of delegates not from state parties, but from small clusters of locals (defined by Congressional Districts, though that could be adjusted). This is a major victory for the G/GPUSA ideals of local control and bioregionalism. Point 6 also contains acknowledgment of the value of non-electoral political work. Point 7 shows that the new party will embrace our value of empowering people from presently disempowered groups and addresses point 4 of our Points of Genuine Unity.
The discussion on identity caucuses (point 8) was extensive but despite some strong initial resistance from the ASGP Negotiating Team, they did finally make what we believed was a major concession. Again, even the language that was adopted represents a substantial compromise on both sides and it is not ideal from our perspective. On the other hand while we may disagree with the ASGP's perspective on this subject, its negotiators did present principled reasons for their opposition to such caucuses—they violate the democratic principle of one person, one vote; some members of historically oppressed groups dislike them and don't believe that they can represent a diversity of views of persons belonging to the group; issues of importance to those groups can be raised through other representatives in a presumably non-discriminatory organization, etc.
The compromise reached was that the group will have a seat on the National Committee if it can demonstrate a minimal requisite level of support from its members. That is a very reasoned compromise. Otherwise, you could have a situation that is not truly representative of the group or the party. For example, if the new party has 300 people with disabilities but only 5 join the PwD Caucus, it would arguably be undemocratic to give those five a seat as if they represented the views of the whole—not to mention that they might have the same level of power in the organization as, perhaps, an entire state's membership.
It is also important to bear in mind that this Proposal pertains to the INITIAL form of organization of the new party. Once the new party is launched, there is nothing preventing people from trying to persuade Greens in their respective states to change the mode of representation in the new party to reduce or even eliminate the minimum threshold. This point applies to any number of other criticisms of the Proposal.
Finally, point 1 gets us the "best of both worlds." G/GPUSA can continue as a duespaying membership-based organization that will continue to champion the values of G/GPUSA within the new Party and to the public at large; work to help ensure that Green Party candidates hold to those values and hold office-holder's "feet to the fire"; maintain focus on issue-and-movement-oriented non-electoral work, work to help ensure that the new Party adheres to democratic processes and principles and advocate the more thoroughgoing transformation of society that the current ASGP platform has held at arm's length. It can, should and hopefully will continue to play a valuable role as the activist core and conscience of the new party. And all we have to give up is the pretense that we are "the" Green Party of the "USA."
What did G/GPUSA gain from this: We gained the establishment of a new national political party that will be better positioned to elect Greens to office. We gained concessions on the structure of the new party that we would not have gained had we not negotiated for them. That structure will be more democratic and more responsive to the input of committed Greens who are politically active in local organizations than it would have been had we not negotiated. We gained a structure that will better permit us to win all Greens over to the position that we need a thorough transformation of the economic basis of our society. Meanwhile, we can continue as an organization to carry on that very struggle, as well as the struggle to improve the structure of the party. The only thing we give up is our separate identity as a separate "party"—which, we submit, would ultimately have to be done in any event, since the continued existence of two national "parties" was to the detriment of the entire Green movement.
Under all the facts and circumstances, this was a good Proposal and we urge its adoption by G/GPUSA.
GREEN CONGRESS 2000
PROPOSAL FOR GENUINE UNITY —passed May 2000
Unity between the Greens/Green Party USA (G/GPUSA) and the Association of State Green Parties (ASGP) can be meaningful and long-lasting only if it is based on an honest assessment of the strengths of each organization. This means that the G/GPUSA should acknowledge the help of the ASGP in organizing a national political campaign. It means that the ASGP should acknowledge that the G/GPUSA has developed a structure which can include state parties as well as locals, has a history of managing money in its daily operation, and has functioning national centers and long-standing relationships with publications. Thus, genuine unity should be based on the Negotiating Committee of the G/GPUSA advocating the points below. The Negotiating Committee must bring departures from the points to the Green National Council for approval.
1. The G/GPUSA and ASGP jointly support the Nader/LaDuke campaign.
2. The merged organization will a recognize a national campaign headquarters created by the Nader 2000 campaign if it chooses to do so. The Clearinghouse in Lawrence, MA, the Green Electoral Action Resource Center in Chicago, IL will continue to function in their current capacity in the merged organization.
3. The G/GPUSA and ASGP will merge using the current structure of the G/GPUSA, which is open to every Green State Party, Green local, and anti-oppression caucus.
4. The Green Party will strive for representation of Women, People of Color, LBGT, and People with Disability/Seniors Caucuses in proportions no less than the population at the local or state jurisdiction represented.
5. In the merged organization, each dues paying member will receive a copy of both newspapers published and Synthesis/Regeneration magazine. Green Politics will be published by its current Editorial Board in Fall, 2000 and Spring 2001 and Green Pages will be published by its current Editorial Board in Winter, 2001 and Summer, 2001. By Fall, 2001, Green Politics and Green Pages will be fused by including all current Editorial Board members in both publications and guaranteeing the expression of the full range of views currently published in both papers.
6. Organized local parties will be the grassroots base of the Green Party with membership assemblies in which every member has voting rights.
7. State parties will have written democratic bylaws and at least one convention a year (whether it be a general membership assembly or a delegate assembly elected by locals).
8. There will be proportional representation of organized Greens elected from the grassroots base to state and national decision-making bodies.
9. There will be a national convention of the Green Party every year.
10. The Green Party will guarantee the right of delegates to decision-making bodies to make motions and speak to any motion.
LETTERS BETWEEN THE GPUSA AND ASGP NEGOTIATING TEAMS
PO Box 1134
Lawrence MA 01842
The ASGP CC at its June 2000 meeting in Denver CO resolved to negotiate with the GPUSA in an attempt to further unity within the Green movement and party. This letter is our formal statement of willingness to negotiate. Our negotiating team will consist of our Steering Committee, a member of our Accreditation Committee, and a member of our legal team.
In the discussions of our Steering Committee we looked into where the negotiations should be held. We offer three potential sites; Michigan, New England, and Washington DC. Most of our team lives in the North East, so we would probably prefer an eastern location, but at least some of our team is prepared to travel. Let us all look into what date would work well for the most people. All of the people involved in this process, on your side as well as our side, are deeply involved in political campaigns this year, but there is still much work to do on the topic of unity. Therefore we hope the meeting can be arranged with a minimum of fuss. This letter is also being emailed. and that might be the best way to communicate initially.
Please respond with a formal acknowledgement of whether the GPUSA wishes to negotiate, and if so, your thoughts on when and where.
To: Greg Gerritt, Secretary
Association of State Green Parties
August 3, 2000
Dear Mr. Gerritt:
We are in receipt of yours of July 27th. Thank you. On behalf of the newly constituted Negotiating Committee of the Greens/Green Party USA, we welcome this overture from the ASGP and give our assurances that the G/GPUSA also earnestly seeks reunification of the Green movement into a single national party.
Enclosed [attached] please find the G/GPUSA's most recent position paper on unification, adopted at its most recent convention in Chicago, following defeat of the Feinstein/Hawkins proposal. We emphasize that this document represents our present position for negotiating unity; it is our starting point, not an inflexible "bottom line." Of course, since these points were just adopted by our convention, we have a responsibility to attempt to persuade the ASGP that they will best serve the interests of the future Green Party and movement. However, we also recognize that negotiations will require some give-and-take on the part of both organizations. In this regard, the new Negotiating Committee enters this process with a fresh outlook, without any preconceived notions or prejudices about the ASGP leadership, and with a commitment to showing some creativity and flexibility in approaching the objective of unity.
All of us who have been selected by our respective organizations to negotiate a unification agreement have been charged with a very solemn responsibility. Clearly, the majority of the membership of both organizations want to see one united, stronger national Green Party and they have sent that message loud and clear to the leadership of both organizations. This pressure from the membership will no doubt increase as the Nader campaign attracts new recruits to one or both organizations. Most of these new members are not going to care one bit about old arguments between "realos" and "fundis" or any other dispute over who did what to whom 5 or 10 years ago. They will have even less patience for divisions that revolve around differences of personality or clashes of egos. As a relatively new Green Party member myself (about 3-1/2 years), I feel much the same way. If we hope to retain these new members and supporters and build a strong party, we must put old disputes to rest now. One need only look at the self-destructiveness now consuming the Reform Party to recognize that few people will want to be part of any new "party" that is split into factions and disrupted by in-fighting. We must rediscover our common ground and build on that which unites us.
This reminds me somewhat of what I have observed in divorce cases: When the parties feud over the disputes that caused them to separate and try to score "points" against the other, the acrimony just keeps building and parents and children alike suffer the consequences. However, when the parents can be focused on the best interests of the child, their differences are put into perspective and a harmonious agreement can be reached. In this case, the "child" is the future Green Party that we all want to see a potent force that can finally put an end to the two-party corporate duopoly. The Nader Campaign has demonstrated that we have that potential. In light of that potential, we dare not fail in our efforts to build a unified party.
As to the specifics of the meeting: We are in agreement with your proposal to meet at a suitable site in New England or elsewhere in the Northeast, as that seems to be a relatively good locale for the majority of persons involved. We would like to specifically propose either Boston or New York City as sites. If either of these sites is agreeable to the ASGP negotiating team, just let us know and GPUSA is agreeable to making suitable arrangements for a meeting place and lodging possibilities, with input from the ASGP negotiating team if desired.
As to the date, we note that the Denver convention called for negotiations to occur within a two-month period. If your team views that as an inviolable requirement, then we are willing to make arrangements to meet on the weekend of August 19th. (Unfortunately, an unavoidable court conflict would make it impossible for me to attend on the weekend of the 26th.) However, we believe that it would be more realistic to allow ourselves a bit more breathing space to make all the necessary arrangements — particularly in light of the convention's call to have a professional mediator present. Obviously, all of us are extraordinarily busy due to the demands of the Nader Campaign, as reflected in the fact that both organizations took over a month to begin this exchange of correspondence. Accordingly, we propose the weekend of September 30 as one that will allow for sufficient advance planning, making travel and lodging arrangements, etc.
Given the paramount importance of these negotiations, and given that some of us will be coming some distance to attend, we would also propose that, whatever weekend is selected, we use as much of the weekend as is possible for the actual negotiating, i.e., both teams should be ready to go fairly early Saturday morning and should be prepared to remain until at least mid-afternoon Sunday.
With respect to the inclusion of a professional mediator, we support the ASGP's proposal. We would like to suggest that Nikhilananda of Hawaii be approached for that role. We understand that he is a member of ASGP, that he is a professional mediator and that he volunteered his services in this capacity at the Denver Convention. Although his travel expenses would obviously run high, there is something to be said for having a mediator with some background in Green politics and he appears to be suitably "neutral." Please let us know your thoughts and suggestions on this matter.
We note that your negotiating team will consist of seven members while the G/GPUSA thought that a smaller negotiating committee of three was suitable. Under the circumstances, we would ask that our alternate members John Stith, Steve Welzer and Jeff Sutter be permitted to attend the negotiation session as observers. They have also been authorized to step in as negotiators should one of our team be unable to attend.
We look forward to your response.
Yours for a Greener Future,
Greens/Green Party USA Negotiating Committee
Richard J. Whitney, Chairperson
August 15, 2000
Dear Richard Whitney and the GPUSA,
The ASGP wishes to formally respond to your proposal. Thank you for your full and detailed response.
You have seen the correspondence, and what seems to work is for the meeting to be Oct 1 and 2 in Boston so that we may have Oct 3 to attend to business around and attend the debate. We propose therefore that we set these dates if possible, and to do so as soon as possible so people can make travel arrangements.
We believe that the Hawkins/Feinsein proposal that has been discussed by both organizations offers a constructive framework for the discussion, and that it should form the basis for the beginning of the discussion. This is by no means a perfect document, but it will help us start the discussion. We formally propose that the H/F document be used in our discussions. We do not believe that Nikilanda is not the appropriate facilitator for this process. We suggest that a facilitator from Massachusetts be found to reduce the cost. We need a process for this and propose that a team of one person from each organization, someone living close to MA, work together with MA Greens to find a facilitator and report to both organizations when they find one.
Greg Gerritt, Secretary ASGP
Excerpts from letters from Michael and Gabrielle after the negotiations:
Thank you again for inviting us to participate in these meetings. I have tremendous respect for the work that you accomplished (in addition to the work that you will be doing). I suspect that I was not alone in finding this to be a great learning experience.
If I could make a personal request, it would be this: please keep me posted on what happens for you. I have a keen interest in and curiosity about the issues with which we wrestled over these two days. I also wish nothing but the best for you all personally. I look forward to seeing public evidence of progress, but I'll also appreciate hearing updates from one or more of you when that is merited.
You all surely recognize that there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done, both with each other and separately. I hope that our endeavors over the past couple days have provided a good starting point for genuine progress toward your shared interest in a strong national Green Party.
With great respect,
Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School
Like Michael, I would like to express my appreciation for all of you, your dedication, stamina and willingness to work things through. I learned a good deal and enjoyed the time immensely, as well as meeting you all.
Joint Proposal of Negotiating Committees of the Association of State Green Parties and The Greens/Green Party USA
The Greens/Green Party USA
[originally posted 22 nov 00 at url: http://www.greens.org/~jsutter/boston2.html (by jeff sutter)]