Statement by Joanne Kuniansky, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New Jersey governor, June 9.
Safety is at the heart of many working-class struggles today as the bosses drive to increase productivity and profits, leading to deadly speedup and disdain for livable working conditions. This is clear in fights by oil refinery workers against lockouts by ExxonMobil in Texas and Marathon Petroleum in Minnesota.
Teamsters at Marathon are fighting to prevent bosses from subcontracting out union jobs, a threat to safe operation. The lives of some 1.7 million people living in a 19-mile radius around the refinery would be at serious risk from an explosion there. Steelworkers at ExxonMobil are fighting to ensure every crew has at least one experienced worker to lead in bringing down and starting up production units.
Under capitalist rule, production is organized with no concern for workers’ lives or limbs, on the job or for others living nearby, nor for the soil, air and water being fouled by pollution. Driven to compete or die in the fight for markets, bosses cannot operate any other way. Regulations by all-too complicit government bureaucrats do nothing to stop bosses determined to maximize profits at the expense of workers’ lives and our planet. I’m all too familiar with this from working at an ARCO refinery in Texas in the 1980s.
All work can be performed safely and in ways that protect our natural resources for use by future generations. But for that to become a reality, workers must fight to take control of production out of the bosses’ hands. This should be on the banner of every union. Workers control of production would allow us to put a halt to the backbreaking pace of work the bosses impose, take charge of decisions on the number of workers needed to do a job safely, and to eradicate the production of substandard goods.
Coal miners took steps in that direction in the late 1960s and ’70s that show the way. They carried out a revolution in the United Mine Workers union and won union control over key aspects of mine safety, including the right to halt production if dust levels were too high. They fought and won construction of clinics throughout the coalfields that succeeded in sharply reducing the scourge of black lung disease. The record of what that working-class struggle accomplished shows we have the capacity to push back the bosses’ assaults on our health and safety.
Opening the bosses’ books for inspection by trade unionists and consumers’ committees is an integral part of the fight for workers to take control of production and to show all toilers how the capitalists steal most of the vast wealth our labor produces.
Workers control is a school for class consciousness. We come to realize our own capacities and worth. We see more clearly that our class can and must take over the management of the entire economy, and gain confidence that we can do so.
We need to build our own party, a labor party, based on fighting unions, that acts independently of the bosses and their twin Democratic and Republican parties to advance workers’ struggles for jobs, safety and higher wages. Such a party would champion every struggle that points toward workers taking control of production.
With our own party workers can lead millions of the exploited and oppressed to overthrow capitalist rule and bring to power a workers and farmers government. It would mobilize workers and farmers to take the factories, banks and farmland into our own hands and to run them ourselves.
Ending capitalist exploitation and social relations is not a pipe dream. The socialist revolution made by working people in Cuba shows it is possible. Join the SWP fighting to do the same here!