Fight for shorter workweek with no pay cut to put us back to work!

By Terry Evans
August 30, 2021

Workers today face an ongoing struggle for jobs, safe working conditions and enough pay to survive. Some are locked out or are on strike over boss demands to worsen workers’ conditions, including at the Warrior Met coal mine in Alabama, ExxonMobil’s big oil refinery in Texas, St. Vincent Hospital in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

Government statistics, which deliberately undercount the real conditions facing working people, still report there are 8.7 million workers unemployed today. In addition, 6.5 million more who want a job but don’t have one aren’t counted as unemployed because they haven’t reported a job search in the last four weeks. A further 4.5 million more who want full-time jobs are forced to work part time. Some 5.2 million more say they couldn’t work or had their hours cut because of pandemic shutdowns. That’s over 25 million workers.

Almost 400,000 workers were laid off last week alone, and over 12 million were getting by on some kind of unemployment benefits. Most “pandemic” benefits are set to run out by Labor Day, Sept. 6, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s partial block on evictions ends at beginning of October.

Bosses say there are 10.1 million jobs available today, but many mean lower wages, speedup and brutal work conditions. Facing competition from fellow bosses, they’re determined to profit at our expense.

On top of persistent joblessness, workers face rising prices for basic necessities month after month, wiping out any gains we make in wage increases. Average real wages have declined every month since January, a total drop of $8.99, the largest single decline since records began in 2006. Inflation ran at 5.4% last month, while gas prices have risen 41% over the past year.

“Working people must look to each other to defend ourselves, and not the bosses or their Democratic and Republican parties,” Rachele Fruit, Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Atlanta, told the Militant. “Getting vaccinated and back to work is crucial. It’s there that workers can join together to stand up to the bosses and fight to get back some of what our labor produces,” she said.

“Workers and our unions need to fight for measures that unify employed and unemployed workers in a common struggle for jobs,” Fruit said. “We cannot allow bosses to protect their profits by throwing millions of fellow workers out of the workforce.”

Periodic spells of massive and debilitating unemployment are built into the way capitalism works. To win protection from this, SWP candidates urge workers to fight for a shorter workweek with no cut in take-home pay to share the work that is available around.

“We need to fight for a government-funded public works program to put millions back to work at union-scale pay now, to build the houses, hospitals and other things workers need,” Fruit added. “To protect our living standards from price rises, unions must lead a fight for cost-of-living adjustments in every contract and for all unemployment benefits and pensions as well.”

Measures like this would provide workers with immediate protection from the worst effects of the crisis and give us vital experience fighting side by side with fellow working people. “No group of workers must be left to fight the bosses’ attacks alone,” she said. “The road forward for workers is to build our own party, a labor party based on our unions, to fight to take political power into our own hands.”

The government determines its jobs programs, immigration policy, minimum wage levels and more based on the bosses’ drive for profits. Its foreign policy defends U.S. business interests worldwide.

Democrats’ infrastructure, budget bills

The Senate passed a revised so-called infrastructure bill that would shower funds to the bosses for a variety of projects to strengthen their production capacity and competitiveness. But Speaker Nancy Pelosi now says her party will refuse to bring it to the House for a vote unless the Senate also agrees to a $3.5 trillion budget backed by the socialist wing of her party. Biden and Pelosi know Republicans won’t support these measures, leaving both bills hanging in the wind.

The “infrastructure” bill isn’t really aimed at putting the millions thrown out of work into jobs. At best, the White House admits, it would only create half a million temporary manufacturing jobs over four years.

The budget contains $765 billion for the Pentagon and the U.S. rulers’ war machine, as well as a series of reforms aimed at preventing workers from organizing to fight for revolutionary change.

Workers continue to face a catastrophe today, the result of an economic, social and moral crisis of capitalist rule. Over 93,330 people died from drug overdoses last year, the sharpest annual increase in three decades. Job losses and isolation as a result of government-imposed lockdowns and physical-distancing measures, contributed to the surging number of deaths.

“The Socialist Workers Party explains the only way to deal with this crisis is in working-class struggle through which we gain confidence in ourselves and discover our own worth,” Fruit said. “We need to build a leadership that can mobilize millions to overturn capitalist rule, bring to power a workers and farmers government, and use it to put an end to the all forms of exploitation and oppression once and for all.”