October 5 Labor Candidates Step Up

On this day in labor history, the year was 1886. 

That was the day Henry George accepted the nomination to run for mayor of New York on the United Labor Party ticket. 

In cities across the country, trade unionists met to found state labor parties and to hammer out political platforms for local and state elections.

In New York City, ULP advocates issued the Clarendon Hall platform and nominated Henry George as the ULP candidate for the mayoral race. 

George had gained prominence with the 1879 publishing of his book, Progress & Poverty.  

In it, he addressed private land ownership as the basis for inequality and advocated for a single tax system. 

At New York’s Cooper Union that evening, where thousands of supporters gathered, George addressed the crowd. 

He presented the ULP platform: higher pay, shorter hours, better working conditions, government ownership of railroads and communications and an end to police repression. 

Burrows and Wallace describe the scene that night in their book, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898.  

During his speech, George declared that, “this government of New York City—our whole political system is rotten to the core.” 

He argued that “politicians had made a trade out of assembling votes and selling them to powerful interests; what business got in return was police protection, lax enforcement of housing and health codes, friendly judges and fat franchises. To purify the political order, working class voters had to sever ties to all the established parties and choose from their own ranks.” 

For a party that had just been founded weeks before, George came in second. 

But like its sister organization in Chicago, the New York ULP would split over the issue of socialism within a year.