Hugh Giordano, a 26-year-old, Roxborough native and food workers’ union organizer for UFCW Local 152, ran on the Green Party ticket against Democrat Lou Agre for a seat in the 194th. He lost, but garnered 18 percent of the vote (23 percent in Philly)—an unprecedented number for a third-party candidate. He may have his district’s attention, but Giordano and the Green Party of Philadelphia want everyone to know that when it comes to the ballot, three isn’t a crowd. What’s more, they’ve got heavy union support—typically an automatic vote for Democrats—to help them.
“They want you to be stupid,” he says of the “party button,” which essentially allows citizens to vote along party lines without looking at who’s up for election. “It’s a way to control the voter. If you go in there and you think you’re a Democrat, you hit the Democrat button and don’t think about anyone else [in the two-party system]. Republicans and Democrats don’t identify themselves as voters. They identify themselves as a party. The party system is very slick.”
Giordano’s disgust with the system compelled him to approach union workers across the city. He wrote an open letter to them, and in it he blames both the Democratic and Republican parties for turning their backs on the working class: “Union brothers and sisters,” he wrote, “when any one of us becomes “fearful” or “controlled” by a political party—it’s time to step down and pass the torch on. WE are the voice of working people, and WE should be telling these politicians what to do; not the other way around…
The Green Party of Philadelphia lost 20 percent of its membership during the 2008 Democratic primary between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It’s gone up about 6 percent since November 2009, according to leadership’s latest numbers, with 2,033 Philadelphians currently registered Green. “We’re attributing that to Hugh Giordano’s campaign,” says Chris Robinson, Green Party spokesman. “In Hugh’s district alone, we saw a 15 percent increase in registration.”
And what began as a conversation on the local level has turned into a national movement in which unions are going Green.
This past fall, Tom Clements, South Carolina’s former Green candidate for the Senate, picked up the endorsement of the Greater Columbia Central Labor Council of the South Carolina AFL-CIO. Ben Manski, Wisconsin State Assembly candidate, won the endorsement of Madison Teachers Inc. Mark Swaney, who ran for a state representative seat in Arkansas, had the state AFL-CIO behind him. Howie Hawkins, a Teamster and former Green Party candidate for governor of New York, sent out a press release through the national Green Party, saying, “While Democrats cave in to wealthy corporate lobbies and campaign contributors, Greens are promoting Medicare For All and opposing plans by the White House’s ‘Catfood Commission’ to cut Social Security.” The list goes on.