Two bakery workers were killed on the job in North Carolina in recent weeks, among the thousands killed at work every year. The AFL-CIO reported last month that in 2020, 340 workers were killed because of hazardous conditions on the job and another 120,000 died from diseases caused by their work. Neither the bosses nor their government does anything serious to halt this, nor can they.
This is a class question. Workers need to use our unions to take control of production away from the bosses and into our own hands. This is the only way to protect our lives and limbs, and of those who use the goods we produce and live near the mines, mills and plants where we work.
For the bosses their relentless drive for profits and market share is all that counts. Workers who are killed are easily replaced. Under capitalism, workers that are ground down through overwork or maimed on the job are simply cast aside. Some 5,000 nurses in Palo Alto, California, showed what is possible when they struck April 25 and made gains in their fight for better conditions for themselves and the patients they care for.
Workers need to set line speeds, ensure new hires get proper training, and control how the job is organized. Our unions need to be able to shut down production if conditions are unsafe. This goes hand-in-hand with fighting bosses’ efforts to extend our workday, compel us to work endless overtime, and to impose arduous and ever-changing work schedules that wreak havoc with our lives and families. Our unions need to fight to force the bosses to open their books — all their financial records — to inspection by workers and consumers committees, so the steps they take to exploit us and steal the wealth our labor produces are laid bare. Where necessary we can take over their companies.
Fighting for workers control is inseparable from the fight to halt the capitalist rulers’ poisoning of the earth, air and oceans and to strengthen the working class, the only class that can safeguard the planet and its resources for future generations.
Workers’ confidence in our own capacities and worth grows through our class struggles, including the fight to exercise control over production. And this prepares workers to take over management of the entire economy. It puts us in a position to harness scientific advances and utilize the vast potential of the labor of workers and farmers to ensure food, electricity and other essentials are available to all worldwide.
We will need to build our own political party, a labor party, to organize workers in uncompromising struggle against the exploiting classes and chart a course to take political power from them and establish a workers and farmers government. That’s what Cuba’s socialist revolution shows is both necessary and possible.