“This is all about control for them, control over union rights,” locked-out oil refinery worker Darrell Kyle told the Militant, referring to ExxonMobil bosses’ assault on the United Steelworkers union in Beaumont, Texas.
Like other workers walking picket lines, Steelworkers there refuse to buckle to the bosses’ drive to gut safety. Workers are fighting to ensure every crew at the refinery has at least one experienced member to lead in bringing down and starting up production units. The bosses responded with a drive to break the union.
Striking sanitation workers in the San Diego area are demanding safer trucks and working conditions as well as higher pay. The Teamsters’ fight there, like the union struggle at ExxonMobil, needs solidarity and support from fellow workers and our unions.
Under capitalism, bosses organize production to maximize profits, tossing aside any concern about workers’ limbs and lives, endangering people living nearby and contaminating the skies, soil and seas with no regard for their preservation and use by future generations. For them, workers injured or killed can be replaced, but lost income is the ultimate disaster.
To meet this challenge, workers are turning to each other and using union power. The just-concluded strike by nurses at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, Massachusetts, is an example. They struck for months to limit the number of patients each nurse is responsible for looking after so they could provide needed care for each one. They set an important example.
Capitalist government regulations do nothing to stop the bosses’ drive against safety. When Colorado officials allowed the JBS slaughterhouse in Greeley to reopen after a wave of COVID infections in 2020, they said work stations should be six feet apart. But last summer bosses cut that back to two feet, to speed up production and defend their profits.
All work can be performed safely! No worker has to die on the job! But this is only possible if workers fight to take greater and greater control of production out of the bosses’ hands. The unions need to take control over line speed and all aspects of conditions on the job, with the power to shut the plant down. We need to gain control over what is made as well as how, to ensure not only that what is produced is safe, but that it meets the social needs of working people.
Taking and exercising control of production advances workers’ confidence in our own capacities and worth. We can see more clearly that our class can and must take over the management of the entire economy. To do so, we need to take state power out of the hands of the ruling capitalist families and establish our own government, a workers and farmers government. We need our own political party, a labor party, to break from the bosses’ twin Democratic and Republican parties and mobilize millions in action.
Along the way, workers and our unions can join with consumer groups and force open the bosses’ books, expose their trade secrets and end the criminal use of patents by owners of pharmaceutical companies that prevent countries around the world from acquiring life-saving vaccines. By taking control of production workers can harness scientific advances and use the full potential of nature and our labor to make food, shelter and many other essentials available to all.
Workers and farmers in Cuba show that with communist leadership it is possible for our class to chart a course to end capitalist exploitation and oppression once and for all.