Bosses say ‘We’re back in charge,’ threaten more attacks on labor

By Vivian Sahner
February 20, 2023

“America’s bosses are starting to feel bossy again,” an article in the Feb. 2 Wall Street Journal noted. The authors point to the recent slowdown in the economy and a wave of layoffs that began in tech companies and has now spread to other industries. This means the bosses think they have more leverage against workers.

Rivian, an electric automaker, announced its second round of job cuts Feb. 1. In January, FedEx, toymaker Hasbro, Dow Chemical, IBM, publishing giant HarperCollins, 3M, Amazon, Google, and others announced layoffs that together amount to tens of thousands of jobs.

Bosses at Google showed how much they valued workers when they sent out emails Jan. 20 firing 12,000. Those who missed the message and showed up at offices found their entry badges didn’t work. In New York some were marched out of the building by security. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, made $60 billion in profits in 2022.

“As layoffs occur, some employees might be more accommodating to the needs of companies,” Christian Ulbrich, a real estate executive, told the Journal. That remains to be seen. The question has never been what the bosses would do. They’ve never stopped driving to maximize profits at workers’ expense, which has led to a number of strikes over the last couple of years.

A recent column in the New York Times explained how some bosses routinely avoid overtime payments by classifying workers who earn more than $35,568 a year as salaried managers. “Food cart managers,” “carpet shampoo managers,” and “price scanning coordinators” then lose the right to overtime pay.

There is an increasing number of working people who have decided “enough is enough” to more speedup, work hours that destroy family life, wages that don’t keep up with price hikes and life-or-death attacks on job safety.

Labor struggles aren’t letting up. Teamsters Local 916 members at Archer Daniels Midland, one of the top 10 largest food companies in the world, went on strike Feb. 3 at the Decatur, Illinois, facility after the company refused to match wages and benefits paid at other locations.

On Feb. 4 the Teamsters union announced that members working at Aramark Uniform Services, one of the largest uniform service providers in the Midwest, halted strike preparations after negotiations led to a better contract. It “provides larger wage increases than we’ve seen in the past and freezes insurance rates,” said Local 238 Business Agent Dave Miller. The agreement was ratified by union members across Iowa and in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

At the same time, the Journal noted 11 million jobs in the U.S. remained unfilled in December. And in January more than a half million workers got new jobs, reversing a five-month run of slower hiring. Still, the labor force participation rate — the number of workers in a job or currently looking for one — remains below what it was in 2020. Some 5.3 million workers want a job but have given up looking for one.

Most important is the increased confidence and combativity workers continue to show. More workers are using our economic power and class solidarity to confront bosses’ intensified attacks. Growing numbers recognize today’s union fights are in the interest of all workers and have stepped up to offer support. Solidarity is crucial for strikes by sanitation workers in Camden, New Jersey, miners in Brookwood, Alabama, and union struggles elsewhere.

Bipartisan backing for the government’s ban on a rail strike in the fall is just the latest example of why neither the Democratic nor Republican parties can represent working people. A broad discussion is needed on forging a party that can speak and act for the working class and all the oppressed, a labor party based on our unions.