Better World honoree George Albro remarks to the Better World Awards, 2016

Better World honoree George Albro

Remarks to the Better World Awards on December 11th, 2016

 

Wow, that’s quite an introduction!

Thank you, Chris. I have to also hand it to Chris. He’s been so much of a hard worker in the WFP, and in our new organization NYPAN, and he’s brought so many great organizers to us.

I haven’t been in this building in many, many years.

When I spoke to Sue Yellin – who is also an organizer with NYPAN – I said,

‘This is going to be on 23rd St. I haven’t been there in many, many years. I used to spend a lot of time there.’

She says, ‘We all spent a lot of time there.’

And it’s really true.

It’s a small organization, the CP, and yet it’s had so much effect in the history of our country, the history of unions, in the history of the progressive movement. It doesn’t get the credit that those of us who’ve been involved in the movement really know.

We’ve all learned a great lesson, I think. How do Communists, socialists, real progressives, people who believe in a different system – how do we act within mass organizations? The CP has taught us how to do that – how to really take the interests of those organizations and move it forward, and not to have just an agenda that says, ‘I’m only in it to advance my agenda’ – ‘I am in it to advance the group, and the agenda goes with it.’ So, I really learned a lot, and I thank Chris and all the people he’s brought. I’ve met so many people here I know; it’s really amazing – really old friends of mine, and the people that have been organizing for a long time.

I am not going to talk that much about politics because we have really great honorees here.

I just know it’s a very difficult time.

I woke up this morning to find out the new Secretary of State is going to be the head of Exxon Mobile.

In a sense, I was relieved. That may sound weird, but on the one hand it’s not a crazy man like Giuliani that needs to be institutionalized, right?

On the other hand, it’s not someone who’s gonna do the same thing but give this appearance – like Mitt Romney or someone who’s gonna give an appearance of being a moderate and being, you know, someone who eats with a fork and spoon, unlike the others.

The plutocrats that run our government have always hired people to do their work in the government, right? Why should they get their hands dirty? ‘Let’s just hire Bush or someone else to do this.’  Now they decided, ‘Let’s eliminate the middleman; we’re just gonna take it over ourselves.’

In a sense, that relieves a myth that a lot of people still believe – that our government kinda rules for everybody. Now we’re gonna see the naked truth, but of course it puts a lot of pressure on us to organize and to resist.

We ain’t going back.

I was really happy and honored to be present when the Mayor had a historic speech a couple weeks ago in Cooper Union, a historic setting.

He laid down the gauntlet to Trump and said, ‘We’re a city of immigrants; we’re a multi-racial city. We’re proud 40% of New Yorkers speak a foreign language in their home. That’s a great thing. That’s what makes America great, and we ain’t going to allow you to break up our great, great city.

He promised, ‘If you try to come and with your new brownshirts – or, as Michael Moore says, ‘The new fascism is with a smiling face’ – if you try and come and register Muslims, we’re gonna sue you. And if you try and bring in and round up our immigrants, we’re going to resist. Our police force is not going to be your brownshirts.’

This is our mayor who was laying down the gauntlet. This is the mayor that the Working Families Party, and the Left, and everyone helped elect. Now, he’s not perfect. But we’re not going to turn our city over to a billionaire to run, that’s for sure.

So, we have a lot to struggle.

I just like to say that as bleak as it looks now, we sometimes forget what an incredible year it has actually been. A Jewish socialist from Brooklyn – boy, now is that the three strikes in a lot of parts of the country; I don’t know where people hate the most of those three – he won 22 states, barely lost 5 others, came within a whisper of being President of the United States.

Previous socialists – Debs – they had a campaign from prison. Gus Hall – which I spent a lot of time trying to get on the ballot when I was younger, and Jarvis who ran for Vice President – they were barely out of prison when they ran and had everything going against them.

For the new generation, Bernie was a socialist, was like, ‘Yeah, so what? He’s a socialist – I think that’s good, that’s a positive thing.’ Everyone said, the Clinton people said that, ‘They’re gonna make a big deal of him being socialist. No, I don’t think so. I am so convinced that if he was the nominee, we’d be preparing for Bernie’s inauguration, a Jewish socialist from Brooklyn as president of the United States.

So, we have made a lot of strides if you think of it. Coming off eight years our first African-American President, a woman almost being the President. So, we can’t forget all that we have accomplished, and now we’re going to accomplish even more in the face of this.

As Chris said, we just launched a new organization statewide called NYPAN, New York Progressive Action Network, and we have 25 affiliates already all over the state. They were originally Bernie Sanders supporters, now we are open for business for all progressives, no matter who you supported, and we are not tied to the established Democrats. At the same time we realize that we will have to fight within the Democratic PArty, and that’s okay, as Bernie did, an independent socialist within the Democratic Party. But, the key thing is that the Bernie Sanders agenda has to be our agenda, and we will have a mass organization, that’s the key. We will need a mass organization ‘cause that’s how we’ll defeat Trumpism. And you guys are all gonna be part of that, a proud part of it, and I am very proud to be here and accept this award.

Thank you so much.

BIO

George Albro is founding member of New York Progressive Action Network and leads the organization’s Brooklyn Chapter.

Albro was a Legal Aid Society Lawyer from 1977 to 1995. During this time he became Secretary-Treasurer and staff member of UAW Local 2325, the union representing the lawyers of the Legal Aid Society of NYC.

In 1998, he successfully lobbied the UAW to found, with the CWA and ACORN, the Working Families Party (WFP) of NYC and he was instrumental in getting the necessary votes to achieve ballot status for the WFP. He also became involved in the UAW’s Area CAP or PAC Council and helped direct it into supporting progressive candidates and causes.

George remained very active in the WFP and its many struggles and campaigns, such as raising the NYS minimum wage. He is currently one of the NYC co-chairs of the WFP. He is also currently chair of the UAW’s NY Area CAP (political action) Committee, which is made up of the president’s and other officers of 8 UAW Locals.

In May 2015, George organized NY Labor for Bernie, which, despite the lack of support of many New York and international labor leaders, managed to rally many rank and file trade unionists to support Bernie. He was the main organizer of Bernie’s 115 member NY Delegation to the Democratic National Convention (DNC), and served on the Rules Committee which put in process the elimination of ⅔ of the DNC superdelegates. Since the primary, George Albro has been the principal organizer of the new, statewide, community-based mass organization known as NY Progressive Action Network or NYPAN and its Brooklyn Chapter.