Nader news


Stephen W. Stromberg
June 22, 2004 1:09AM (UTC)

Ralph Nader now has something John Kerry doesn't -- a running mate. Today he chose Green Party activist and candidate Peter Camejo, who ran for governor of California during last year's recall election and for president on the Socialist Workers Party ticket in 1976. Nader is now in a good position to get a Green Party endorsement along with its access to ballots in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

Meanwhile, a recent National Journal article (sorry, no free url) reveals some tarnish on Nader's activist image. "Amid a dispute with the staff of one of his flagship publications in 1984 over its editorial content and a bid by staff members to form a union, Nader responded with the same kind of tactics that he has elsewhere condemned: He fired the staff, changed the locks at the office, unsuccessfully tried to have one employee arrested, and hired permanent replacements. When the fired workers appealed the action to federal authorities, Nader filed a countersuit. Applying a legal tactic that employers commonly use to resist union-organizing efforts, Nader claimed that the fired workers were trying to appropriate his business. Nader spurned efforts by other progressives to mediate the fight, and he refused an offer to settle the litigation by simply signing a declaration that his workers thenceforth would have the right to organize."

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"'I was shocked by how Ralph acted,' said John Cavanagh, director of the Institute for Policy Studies, who tried to mediate the dispute. 'He seemed unable to see how this conflicted with his ideals.' Cavanagh, who says he likes and respects Nader and supported his 2000 presidential run, said he was particularly surprised that Nader refused a dialogue on the dispute: 'That's not the way progressives are supposed to act.'"

"And what does Nader have to say about all this? "Through campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese, Nader declined to comment at length on the 20-year-old conflict. According to what Zeese said that Nader told him, Nader recalls the incident as a professional dispute with the magazine's staff. Nader said the staff had defied his instructions and that the unionization effort was a ploy after the decision had already been made to fire the workers. Zeese said that Nader has always supported the right of his employees to organize."

"But that's not what Nader said at the time. In a June 1984 article in The Washington Post, Nader said his employees and others at nonprofit organizations don't have a need to organize. 'I don't think there is a role for unions in small nonprofit "cause" organizations any more than...within a monastery or within a union' itself, he said. 'People shouldn't be in public-interest groups unless they believe in it and are ready to work for it.' Early on in his career, Nader said, 'I worked weekend after weekend after weekend....Now people come here and say they want to fight polluters and unresponsive agencies, but not after 5 o'clock and not on weekends.'"

Rumors of Nader campaign shenanigans to get on the ballot in Arizona are also proliferating. Nader turned in more than enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot in the Grand Canyon State, but after accusations from the state Democratic Party chairman that a local Republican financed Nader's signature drive, the Daily Kos blog and a blog on the Yuma County Democratic Party's website both claim that local Democrats are sifting through the signatures and looking for irregularities, including an inordinately large number of Republican signatories.

There is also some question about Nader's adherence to federal election law. As first reported by Joe Conason, Nader housed his campaign in the same office as one of the charities he founded, possibly in violation of the charity's non-profit status.


Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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