There have been enough strikes across the U.S. in 2021 that some have even called October “Striketober.”

By one count, by Oct. 19, there have been 178 strikes since the start of 2021. That's according to Labor Action Tracker of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations. Compared with the past few decades, that's a very impressive response by rank-and-file workers to the paltry starting wages and meager benefits that most of them are offered by employers, pretty much across the board.

While that cannot be considered revolutionary, it shows that workers are flexing some muscle, especially in the time of the ubiquitous “help wanted” signs in factories and retail businesses. These movements of workers might have happened anyway, but the crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic has helped push the issues of wage-earning U.S. workers to the fore.

They are tired of promises. They want action by both employers and their governments at every level. A promise of full health care benefits...someday...is not enough. Workers need respite from their notorious long work week. Politicians of varying stripes have found it “remarkable,” “awesome,” and “inspiring” that a single mother has two or three jobs, but they never ask what her life is like, juggling the jobs and making sure her children are safely cared for while she is at work.

For them, if she should leave a younger child with a 12-year-old for several hours during the day, she is endangering her children and could be in danger of losing custody of the children. Such are the choices of working parents in an economy that cares little for citizens’ lives. Politicians and the rich who call the economic shots in the U.S. just want those low-wage workers (including the so-called working poor) to keep paying their taxes and to keep on producing for the machine. If they don't, there's always the threat of moving production to a developing country, where pay and benefits are next to nothing. No full-time worker should have to face such decisions in a society as generous as this one falsely proclaims to be.

Compared with other rich nations, the U.S. provides little in the way of support for its working class and cannot even find enough support to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour. So, the minimum wage is scattershot and is set at the whim of those elected officials in the various states. Not many are very generous and the statistics on health, education, and housing standards show it, with too many living well below the poverty level. The poverty level, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is $26,500 for a family of four. Anyone with a bit of common sense knows that an income of twice that keeps the family on survival mode. They set the poverty level that low so that anyone who earns a little more than that is not considered to be living in poverty. It's fraud and it's perpetrated by the people in power.

This is the world that young workers are facing and why they are willing to strike against employers who not only offer low pay and few benefits and ill treatment, but offer no hope of improving their lives for the foreseeable future. There is unrest among them and their elders who work under the same conditions. Think about coal miners suffering black lung and other respiratory diseases who have to fight the coal companies and their politicians for every treatment and every day of their health care. And, coal miners are possibly the worst-off of neglected workers. Workers of all ages are not willing to tolerate this continued abuse wherever they work.

What do they do? They organize and they strike. Often, it is to no avail, because the powers that be are all-powerful in the workplace and in the economy. They determine what politicians will be elected and their politicians do their bidding in law and the courts. The courts play an important part in keeping workers in their place, a weakened state in the political realm. Occasionally, the working class elects senators and representatives who try to turn things around, but they are always in the minority and achieve little in getting laws passed that will free workers. They filled the courts with judges who are appointed by those same corporate-owned politicians. Because of that, workers are faced with hostile laws, hostile politicians, hostile courts, and hostile corporations. The number of strikes is growing because of all of these factors, even if the workers cannot see the overall enemy they are facing, they just know they are reaching the end of their tolerance.

That has alarmed Corporate America for a few years. The corporate CEOs who rule the economy and, to a great extent, the politics of a once great nation, recognizing that the workers are stirring, only know that they have to clamp down even further on the workers, to keep them in line. That gets more difficult, as we educate more workers about their work and their place in it. Striking is a good way to get the attention of their bosses, but they need more than that. They need a plan and they need a power that is equal to that of CEOs and politicians and judges and courts that are hostile to their interests and the welfare of their families and communities.

Business interests and their lawmakers and their courts are arrayed against any worker rising, but they're still a little concerned because they, at least, know the history of outrageous disparity in wealth and the outcome has not been very pretty. The rich and powerful do have their organizations and they act in concert and big money has had a lark in passing laws and winning court decisions based on those laws in defeating any aspirations of the working class. Slowly, the workers apparently are beginning to understand the power of solidarity. Sometimes, they win a battle and gain a little ground. The war, however, rages around them and all workers do not share in the smaller victories.

Billionaire Warren Buffett said it out loud: “There is a class war and our side is winning.” That's because his side is organized. They have the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable, and dozens of similar organizations that allow them to present a united front against American workers.

Each one of the little victories of workers is a benefit, but to create a powerful entity to face the untold power of Corporate America, workers everywhere need to organize together. Having all the disparate groups of workers join the union movement would be the right first step. First, though, they have to overcome a century or more of corporate propaganda, to see that unions are the way for workers to have a place at the table. Workers are beginning to see through the anti-union propaganda. A PBS poll showed that, in 2017, 48 percent of non-union workers would join a union. Those numbers have held, if not increased, in the past few years.

The next step would be in the political field. Several years ago, union activists and others took the first steps to form a Labor Party and such a party is needed now, to elect politicians that have the rights and welfare of working women and men before the needs and wants of the rich and big business. Other rich nations have labor parties that are quite influential, but the U.S. never has had a labor party. The time may be right to start anew the beginnings of one, since the two major parties do not hold workers in highest regard, as they should. It will be the only way to equal the power of the 1 percent. The prospect is a long struggle, but one worth engaging.

BlackCommentator.com Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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