The fight for safety on the job is a central issue in the eight-month-long strike by miners in the United Steelworkers union at Hecla Mining Co.’s Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho, and in the strike by members of the International Association of Machinists at Henkel Aerospace in Bay Point, California. Their fights deserve the solidarity of workers nationwide.
Hecla Mining is trying to gut seniority and union control of safety conditions in the mine. The miners know that union control of the organization of work crews is essential to prevent injuries and death. Many of the miners still point to the fire in 1972 that killed 91 miners near Big Creek, Idaho, as an example of the consequences of bosses’ lack of interest for safety as they strive to maximize profits.
Workers at Henkel Aerospace in California organized the union after the 2013 death of David Eleidjian, a newly hired worker at the plant.
By standing up to the bosses and reaching out for solidarity these miners and aerospace workers are acting in the interests of workers everywhere.
Today, only 6.4 percent of workers employed by private companies belong to a union, a percentage that continues to decline. In New York City, where 90 percent of construction workers were unionized in the 1970s, barely 31 percent are in unions now. Construction-related fatalities in the city jumped from 17 in 2011 to 25 in 2015.
No worker has to die because of unsafe working conditions! Not in construction, mining, aerospace, or any workplace.
The only way to stand up to the attacks on life and limb from the bosses’ profit drive is to rely on our own strength. We need to organize, unionize and fight together for workers control of safety on the job — including the right to stop work whenever we face unsafe conditions.
Workers are willing to stand up and fight, but all too often union officials channel our struggles into support for capitalist party politicians who promise to represent our interests. The bosses have two parties — Democrats and Republicans. Those parties act for the wealthy minority whose system is responsible for exploitation, wars and the curtailment of workers’ rights. The Socialist Workers Party urges workers to fight for independent working-class political action that will lead to taking political power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers.
The bosses try to divide working people — employed vs. unemployed, native born vs. immigrant, Black vs. Caucasian, women vs. men. The unions should be at the forefront of fights for amnesty for immigrant workers, against police brutality, for women’s right to choose abortion, for a public works program to put millions to work at union-scale wages. To unify the working class and win allies in the fight for a society built on human solidarity, not dog-eat-dog capitalist exploitation and war, is at the heart of advancing the interests of workers and farmers in this country and around the world.
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