Labor struggles involve everyone.
Which side are you on?
Have you ever had to go on strike?
Most of us have, and for pretty familiar reasons.
Sometimes it's the only way we can win a decent wage, especially when the cost of living is rising fast.
Sometimes it's the only way to fight back against working conditions that are going from bad to worse.
Other times it's necessary to defend a co-worker who's been treated unfairly... and to stop the practice before it happens to someone else.
Whatever the case, there are plenty of problems workers face that can force us out on strike. And while none of us want to risk our jobs or incomes, a strike is often the only weapon we have to fight for our economic rights.
THE DOUBLE STANDARD
Yet whenever workers walk off the job, a double standard is applied.
Public opinion is immediately whipped up against the strikers. The courts pass injunctions and the police harass pickets. The press writes indignant editorials and loud demands are raised for tougher anti-strike laws.
This barrage of anti-strike propaganda shows how many weapons employers have at their disposal. Yet the papers almost never denounce bosses for refusing to meet workers' demands. Nor are any court injunctions issued when capitalists "go on strike" and close down factories. Or when they lay off hundreds of workers or move their plants in search of cheaper labor to exploit.
'STRIKES AGAINST THE PUBLIC'
But the one weapon workers have -- the right to strike -- is constantly under attack. And if government workers are involved, the attack is especially fierce.
Then the walkout is denounced as a "strike against the public." Everyone is expected to support the local politicians and city authorities in their efforts to get the strikers to cave in. The workers are blamed for every problem that arises.
Yet the same politicians and city authorities who denounce "strikes against the public" are the ones who've been leading a wave of school closings, daycare cutbacks, firefighting reductions and hospital shutdowns all across the nation. They're not blamed for "inconveniencing the public." In fact, the hardships they cause are defended as being "in everyone's interest."
MAKING STRIKES A CRIME
The special attacks constantly being made on the right of government workers to strike are just stepping stones to attacks on all workers. Public employees aren't the only ones who perform vital functions. Every industry and every social service-food, housing, transportation, etc. -- is run by workers. The fact that many jobs are important is no reason for denying basic rights to the people who do them. If that excuse can be used against public employees, it can soon be used against everyone.
Already it's a felony for federal workers to walk off their jobs. And 33 states have laws limiting the right of their employees to strike. This means a high percentage of the 14 million workers employed by the government face stiff fines and sometimes jail terms for staging a walkout.
The trend is spreading to other areas. Forced arbitration and anti-strike clauses are on the rise. Even some unions -- which are supposed to be fighting for workers' rights -- have signed agreements with employers giving up the right to strike. The United Steelworkers, for example, signed a no-strike pact without even giving Steelworkers a chance to vote on it.
WHAT'S AT STAKE?
This whole drive to curb the right to strike is a step toward disarming workers in their struggle for economic survival. The overwhelming majority of people in the U.S. have only their labor power to sell and they survive by selling it to the employing class. If they give up the elementary right to withhold that labor or bargain for a better price or better conditions, they become little more than slaves.
No one "enjoys" strikes, least of all workers and their families who lose their incomes while bosses live off past profits. Strikes, at best, are defensive actions. To really get to the heart of our economic problems, we have to change the whole economic system that repeatedly forces us to fight for a decent living.
TOWARD A NEW ECONOMY
This is the ultimate goal of the Socialist Labor Party. We are a nationwide organization of working men and women which has been seeking for over 80 years to establish a truly democratic economy. One in which:
* The nation's factories, mines, mills, offices and farms are socially owned by all of us instead of privately owned by a few.
* All the workplaces are run cooperatively and democratically by the workers themselves.
* Production is carried on to meet social needs instead of for profit.
Building a movement for this kind of economy requires a long struggle. It also requires the defense of the few rights we have now -- like the right to strike. If we lose those rights, the fight for a democratic socialist economy will be even harder to win.
Defend the right to strike!
Find out more about the SLP's revolutionary program for economic democracy!