By Mark Friedman
Strikes by workers at fruit packing plants in Washington state, nurses unions nation-wide, Amazon workers internationally and independent truckers protesting in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., show the way forward for working people. These are examples of what we can do to stand up to the companies and their government, and to their attacks on jobs, wages, working conditions and other abuses.
Democratic and Republican politicians say “we” have a common stake in getting “our economy” up and running safely. But there is no “we.” And what they call “our economy” is a system of exploitation based on their ownership of the factories, fields and other workplaces where they profit from our labor power. Whatever they do is aimed at strengthening their exploitation of our class and to put obstacles in front of workers’ efforts to organize.
What workers need above all is to break down the divisions separating those of us working and those of us robbed of the chance to make a living thru necessary quarantines and physical distancing over the past 2 months as we go back to work with increased safety precautions- we fought for every step of the way…led especially by nurses.
We must raise the demand of a federally funded public works program to put millions back to work at union-scale wages to create jobs building nursing homes, hospitals, schools, low-income housing and jobs for all the homeless and more.
We can rally around the demand of a 30-hour workweek at 40 hours pay to keep fellow workers on the job; the same way as we won the eight-hour day.
Already, all the politicians, even those considered the most “liberal” of Democrats, are calling for massive cuts in education and social services, reductions in pensions, furloughs of 10 to 15% for example, in LA County, to recoup lost revenue. This becomes the next stage of our battle. To demand: No cuts. No layoffs. Nationalize the oil industry to pay for all necessary social services. Tax the multi-millionaire and billionaire class, not working people. Unlock their business accounts to reveal to all how their class works to steal more and more of the wealth our labor produces.
As we return to work, we can rebuild union power, lost over the decades by union mis-leadership, in the course of our struggles to fight for safety, pensions and expanded unemployment and health benefits.
The fight for workers control of production is the road to win control over jobs, line speed, work conditions, and the environmental impact of production on the land, sea and air; Climate change is still happening! This is counter to the bosses’ refusal to produce what workers need, instead of what makes them big profits.
The more control we take of production the more we learn about our own capacities to run society. To lead that struggle workers need to build our own party, a labor party independent of the Democrats and Republicans who are crying out in unison for working people to pay the price for the pandemic. It is their economic crisis-let them pay.