Fight to get workers back on the job, defend our jobs and unions

By Brian Williams
August 16, 2021
Some 600 members of BCTGM Local 218 at Frito-Lay in Kansas returned to work July 26 after three weeks on strike over forced overtime, wages. They won broad solidarity for their fight.
Topeka Frito-Lay Union Members Appreciation PageSome 600 members of BCTGM Local 218 at Frito-Lay in Kansas returned to work July 26 after three weeks on strike over forced overtime, wages. They won broad solidarity for their fight.

While the bosses’ press celebrates a profit bonanza on Wall Street, millions of workers still don’t have jobs, employers are fighting to hold down wages as prices keep rising, and the federal government’s COVID-based bar on evictions has expired.

Changing these conditions requires workers joining together on the job, standing up to bosses’ attacks and waging a political fight for the government to act now to put millions back to work.

There’s 6.8 million fewer jobs today than before the pandemic began, as bosses continue to drive for profits by intensifying the pace of work. Official unemployment in June was 5.9% and even higher for Black workers, at 9.2%.

This doesn’t include 6.4 million workers who government statisticians don’t count as part of the labor force because they haven’t looked for jobs over the past month.

The Department of Labor reports that 13,156,252 people are trying to get by on unemployment benefits as of July 10, an increase of over half a million from the previous week. The vast majority of payments are from federal pandemic-relief programs that are set to end in September.

“We need to unify employed and unemployed workers,” Maggie Trowe, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, told the Militant, “to fight for a government-funded public works program to put millions back into jobs at union-scale pay and under workers control, to build the houses, hospitals, schools and child care centers workers need.”

Over seven months since vaccinations began, only 49.4% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated as of July 31, a figure that hasn’t budged much for a number of weeks. Meanwhile, the spread of the Delta variant of the virus has caused new cases to soar, especially among those who aren’t vaccinated.

The virus has been ravaging large parts of the semicolonial world while capitalist pharmaceutical companies use patents to maintain their monopoly, preventing vaccines from being more widely produced and distributed. Only 14% of the world’s population is fully vaccinated and across Africa only 1%.

Bosses at Pfizer and Moderna are gloating over soaring profits, announcing higher prices for 2022. Pfizer, the highest selling jab, raised sales forecasts for next year by $7.5 billion to $33.5 billion. Moderna’s profits were boosted by major U.S. government grants for its shot.

Unions need to lead vaccination drive

President Joseph Biden blames low vaccination rates on deplorable workers, proclaiming, “If you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were.” Like broad layers of the capitalist rulers and their meritocratic boosters, Biden thinks working people are incapable of doing what’s in our own interests.

In sharp contrast, Trowe said, “the new surge of the Delta variant needs to be met by unions explaining why all workers need to get vaccinated and taking the lead in organizing them to do so.”

One example of unions helping to lead is the decision of SMART sheet metal union locals in New York, St. Louis, Chicago and Minneapolis to use union halls as vaccination sites for members, veterans and the general public. “These efforts were part of a coordinated effort by building trades unions to make their facilities available,” said a July 13 union news release.

Evictions rise

The federal moratorium on eviction of tenants who owe back rent expired at the end of July. On Aug. 3, Biden had the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention enact a partial moratorium for 60 days for areas with “high” levels of COVID transmission, while saying it’s unconstitutional and will likely be overruled.

Weekly data from the U.S. Census Bureau show 15% of renters are behind on payments. Its Household Pulse Survey said that 3.6 million people thought it was somewhat or very likely they would be evicted within the next two months.

Another sign of the scope of the crisis is that life expectancy fell by 1.5 years in 2020, the biggest decline since 1943, in the midst of World War II. For Blacks, life expectancy dropped even more, by 2.9 years.

This drop reflects COVID-19 deaths, but also the impact of isolation and other social problems arising from government lockdowns and the rulers’ refusal to provide adequate medical care for people with diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other serious conditions. Drug-overdose deaths rose last year by nearly 30%.

Births fell to the lowest level in over four decades, as increasing number of working people do not have the means to start and raise a family.