Fight for a sliding scale of wages and hours

May 30, 2022

Soaring prices on basic necessities are wreaking havoc with the lives of working people and our families, at the same time millions remain out of work and bosses are pushing pay cuts, “suicide schedules” and speedups that damage our bodies.

Construction workers in Ontario, Canada, are striking for a large enough pay raise in each year of their three-year contract to defend their wages from being eroded. 

“We want to be able to support a family, not live week to week,” Ashley Lee, a striking United Auto Workers member at Case New Holland in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, said last week. “Your job shouldn’t be your whole life,” striker Mario Palacio said. Refinery workers at Chevron in Richmond, California, are striking for higher wages, safer conditions and sustainable work schedules. “They definitely need to hire more people!” striker Jose Chavez said. 

Each of these strikes needs solidarity from workers and our unions to bring home a victory. 

The labor movement needs to organize workers to fight for a sliding scale of wages and hours. There is no way to prevent inflation under capitalism, but workers can fight to protect ourselves and others from having our lives ripped apart.

Every time consumer prices go up we need wage increases to match. In past decades the United Auto Workers and other unions won automatic cost-of-living adjustments in contracts covering millions of workers. They can be fought for again. These protections should be extended to all workers, unionized or not, and in federal programs like Social Security. 

The capitalist rulers have countless tricks to mask the real rate of inflation. Workers need to form consumer committees on prices to monitor the real effects of inflation on the goods we need. Our unions must demand the bosses open their books to workers inspection to find out the truth about company profits.

Workers need a shorter workweek with no cut in take-home pay to spread the available work and prevent layoffs. End the “suicide shifts,” forced overtime and extended working days that lead to injuries, deaths and broken families. This would ease the competition workers face to get hired and help unify the working class. 

The bosses won’t take any of these steps voluntarily, they fly in the face of capitalism’s dog-eat-dog drive for profits above all else. They’ll use wars like Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, and trade wars with Beijing and other rivals, to try to convince working people “we” must sacrifice for “American interests.” But workers in the U.S. share common interests with fellow working people worldwide and have no common interests with the rulers who exploit us.

A labor movement fighting for this perspective can be the basis for a break with the bosses’ parties, the Democrats and Republicans. We need our own party, a labor party, that can lead millions in struggle to take political power, build a workers and farmers government and join hands with workers around the world.