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