Joblessness soars worldwide, spurs working-class resistance

By Roy Landersen
July 6, 2020

The key for working people today is the fight for jobs, to provide income for workers and their families, to rebuild the ranks of the working class, and help workers prepare for class-struggle battles today and to come.

Hundreds of millions worldwide are out of work, some getting paltry government handouts while many get nothing. Governments everywhere have dished out massive subsidies to big business. In the U.S. over 20 million workers rely on special government “benefits” that are set to run out at the end of July. Officials in Washington say these payments are an incentive to stay out of work! 

The Socialist Workers Party calls for workers and their unions to fight for a government-funded public works program to provide jobs at union-scale pay, building things working people need — hospitals, housing, day care centers, schools, and to repair the crumbling infrastructure.

Corporate giants, like Amazon, Walmart, Microsoft and Apple, have profited handsomely during the lockdown, as their “essential” stores, warehouses, factories and online sales have raked in money. Highly paid professionals and top managers feign “working from home,” while millions of workers have been locked out of work or, for those deemed “essential,” face speedup and dangerous working conditions. 

Bosses lay off workers

The hotel chain Hilton Worldwide says they will cut 2,100 jobs. AT&T plans to eliminate at least 3,400 jobs in the U.S. and permanently close more than 250 stores. Nokia bosses announced plans to cut 1,233 jobs from their French subsidiary, Alcatel-Lucent.  

Auto bosses worldwide have announced sizable job cuts, as they seek to get “lean and mean,” leading to ongoing strikes by thousands of workers at Renault in France and Nissan in Spain.

The number of new applications for jobless benefits in the U.S. has been in the millions each week for three months. Total filings for unemployment claims has topped 45 million. The government crowed when new claims came in at “only” 1.5 million June 13. Millions more aren’t covered at all. 

In the U.S., individuals have been forced to skip more than 100 million payments on student loans, auto loans and other forms of debt. A wave of apartment and home evictions loom, threatening millions with homelessness. In New York City alone, some 50,000 eviction notices are expected as a statewide moratorium is lifted.  

Garment workers laid off worldwide

Millions of garment workers, many of them women, from Central Africa to South Asia, Cambodia and the Philippines, have been hit by layoffs and loss of wages as capitalist production and trade worldwide plummeted. Bosses closed plants as orders dried up and governments declared shutdowns. 

Workers lost their jobs, pay and places to live. Millions in India and elsewhere tried to return to rural villages where their families live, but many were blocked by government transportation shutdowns and police. Others protested outside plants, demanding jobs and back pay.

Over 1,300 women garment workers staged a dayslong sit-in at the Euro Clothing factory in Srirangapatna in the Indian state of Karnataka after being laid off June 8. A week earlier, workers had stopped management from removing machines from the factory by blocking the gates. 

Over 2,000 workers in Tanzania, 90% of them women, picketed outside Mazava Fabrics over the sports jersey factory’s closure for three months while the bosses cut their wages in half. In Myanmar, more than 400 leather workers blocked the plant gates of Jia Hao Fashion Industry June 11 after they were locked out for protesting the dismissal of 79 fellow workers. 

The deepening capitalist crisis reveals how “globalized” world production supply lines of everything from semiconductors to vital medicines are highly vulnerable to disruption. Governments have closed borders and raised other barriers to international commerce, while trying to whip up patriotic frenzy in the name of national security. 

As government frictions and capitalist competition sharpens, working class solidarity and resistance is crucial.