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Saturday December 04, 2021

Taking a stand

October 23, 2021

The only way for us to learn how to exercise power is to practice exerting it. The strike wave and the record-setting walkouts are so full of promise because the people are acting on their own behalf – on their own interests – both collective and individual.

We hope people will see the connection between the two. Will the millions of discontented workers form unions? Will the unions field an army of organizers to help out?

Workers have reached the breaking point but not before inequality reached epic proportions and COVID revealed just how little the bosses cared if we live or die. Fifty trillion dollars have been redistributed to the 1 percent since the mid-1970s with the corporate-bought politicians playing bag man. And as teams of scholars studying wealth inequality have suggested, this problem cannot be resolved through normal means.

The same researchers found that pandemics sometimes redistribute wealth. At first, the Covid crises led to a concentration of wealth unprecedented in its speed and scope. Corporations and their political servants saw the pandemic as a business opportunity or a chance to loot the public treasury (see CARES Act) instead of a public health crisis. But what goes up must come down and maybe – just maybe – it’s our turn.

There is nothing better than the power of a good example. Strikes have been on the rise since 2017 and 1,600 strikes have been recorded by Payday Strike Tracker since the pandemic began.

Wildcats strikes and non-union workers were the cutting edge of the initial Covid strike wave. The current strike wave has shifted toward existing unions and national contracts with the rank and file leading the way. Remember, the Deere workers rejected the first UAW contract.

Bottom-up momentum will intensify internal conflict such as we are already seeing in the Teamsters election, the Carpenter’s struggle over picketing, and the discontent with the IATSE tentative agreement.

The strike wave will also push conflicts within the ruling class as the liberals push for incremental change while the hard-liners double down demanding even more blood sacrifice. Either way, it’s a strategic difference over the best route to preserving and securing their power and position.

At Kellogg and Deere workers are rejecting not just low pay but also a system – the two-tiered labor system. The two-tier system has been one of the structural weapons used by bosses to break worker solidarity, weaken unions, and lower wages and benefits. Two-tier systems were innovated by the liberal management of higher education beginning in the mid-1970s when the corporatization of education and austerity kicked in.

The evil genius of two-tier systems was that it entices existing workers with minor privileges and short-term benefits while luring new hires with the promise of work experience, or at least survival. The two-tier system makes class traitors out of people by encouraging them to sell out the next generation of workers.

Excerpted: ‘Workers are Walking Out’

Counterpunch.org