Cut workweek with no cut in pay to stop layoffs

Demand gov’t-financed public works program to create jobs

By Brian Williams
October 26, 2020
Fairacres Manor nursing home residents in Greeley, Colorado, backed by nursing staff, protest restrictions imposed on physical contact with loved ones Oct. 8. Rulers have shunted elderly into overcrowded, understaffed nursing homes, leaving thousands shut in to die.
Natalie DyerFairacres Manor nursing home residents in Greeley, Colorado, backed by nursing staff, protest restrictions imposed on physical contact with loved ones Oct. 8. Rulers have shunted elderly into overcrowded, understaffed nursing homes, leaving thousands shut in to die.

Millions of workers in the U.S. have lost their jobs in the midst of a two-sided and intertwined capitalist economic and social crisis unfolding today.

One side is the efforts of the bosses and their government to make working people bear the brunt of a deep falloff in production and trade.

The other is the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. It not only exacerbates the economic squeeze, but workers face a health industry of hospitals, pharmaceutical and insurance monopolies, and nursing homes where bosses’ decisions are based on making profit and workers have a very difficult time getting any serious care. 

At the same time, food and electric prices are rising more rapidly than official Consumer Price Index figures, further cutting into workers’ take-home pay, pensions and Social Security. 

For weeks the media has reported large companies laying off thousands of workers. Royal Dutch Shell said last month it’s cutting up to 9,000 jobs. BP has announced plans to eliminate about 10,000. 

Bosses at Chevron Corp., the second-largest U.S. oil producer, say they’re eliminating many workers’ current jobs and will require these now former employees to reapply for jobs, saying unabashedly their goal is to cut costs at workers’ expense. As a start, some 700 workers in Houston are being taken off the company’s payroll starting Oct. 23. Worldwide, the company plans to slash some 7,000 jobs. 

Amtrak bosses announced Oct. 8 that 2,400 workers’ jobs are on the chopping block. Restaurant chain Ruby Tuesday filed for bankruptcy Oct. 9, announcing 185 of its 421 restaurants will be closed for good. And the list goes on. 

Some 1.3 million workers filed applications for state or federal unemployment benefits for the week ending Oct. 3, bringing the number seeking temporary relief to 25.5 million. Many others are out of work but aren’t getting any government aid, including those whose unemployment applications haven’t been processed or approved, immigrant workers without papers and part-time workers who aren’t eligible. 

According to the government, 22 million jobs were eliminated in March and April, but today only 11 million of these workers are back. That’s before the thousands of job losses being announced by bosses today.  

The bosses’ goal is to increase production with fewer workers, using speedup and disdain for health and safety. According to an AFL-CIO report issued this month, 5,250 workers lost their lives on the job in 2018. That comes to an average of 14 workers a day. And that was a “normal” year, before COVID-19. 

Rising prices of necessities

The government insists that the annual inflation rate for August over 2019 was just 1.7%. That’s why they plan virtually no cost-of-living increases for those on Social Security, disability or most pensions. 

But what they’re referring to is so-called core inflation, which excludes food and energy prices. As workers well know, these prices are rising far more rapidly.  

In the vice presidential candidates debate Oct. 7, Republican incumbent Mike Pence claimed the economy is fine. Democrat Kamala Harris said that’s not true and President Donald Trump is responsible, because he has allowed the coronavirus disease to spread. But both candidates and their parties have no proposals to defend the interests of the working classes. 

The SWP presidential and vice presidential candidates Alyson Kennedy and Malcolm Jarrett are the only ones putting forward a program advancing a working-class road forward.

 They say the number one question is jobs and fighting to put millions back to work with a government-funded public works program to create jobs at union-scale wages and build hospitals, schools, housing and other things working people need. They call for cutting the workweek with no cut in pay, to spread the available work around and prevent layoffs. Every worker who wants one should have a productive job!

The SWP says workers need to build a union movement to fight for escalator clauses in every contract and government entitlement program so our pay goes up to match any price increases, to protect our living standards. 

The rulers for-profit ‘health’ setup

The U.S. rulers’ health care industry, like all others under capitalism, is based on generating profits, not providing care. The capitalist rulers themselves don’t have to worry about this setup, they can buy the best treatment available, whether experimental or on the market. And they extend the privilege to the meritocratic professional layers who facilitate their control. 

When President Trump got COVID-19 he had his own government-paid doctors and exclusive treatment. This included getting an experimental antibody treatment by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, antiviral remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone. 

“Production of this package of drugs should be ramped up immediately and made available for everyone who needs them, free of charge,” Kennedy told the Militant. 

Instead, the rulers tell workers to stay at home if you don’t feel well and see what happens, unless you find you can no longer breathe. Then you can go for some help, which at that point often means getting stuck on a ventilator. At least 80% of coronavirus patients in New York City put on ventilators ultimately died. 

Former Colorado Democratic liberal Gov. Dick Lamm was unusually blunt in justifying the large-scale deaths of the elderly. When you’re old “you’ve got a duty to die and get out of the way,” he said. “We have a bigger duty when we ration medicine to a 5-year-old than to an 85-year-old.” 

The Socialist Workers Party candidates say the opposite. “Medical care must be a right for all, not based on age or insurance eligibility or ability to pay,” Kennedy said. “The SWP calls for universal, government-guaranteed cradle-to-grave health care.”