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USA : against unemployment

jeudi 9 juillet 2009, par Robert Paris

United States : 13 Million unemployed and rising - organize & fight back !

Sat, 30 May 2009.

539,000 more workers tossed on the scrap heap by the economic crisis

Greg Beiter, ATU 587 Shop Steward, Seattle

Time for another round of bad news. In May, 539,000 more workers were tossed on the scrap heap by the current economic crisis, hanging by a thread of meager unemployment checks until the benefits run out, with little hope of finding work. While the titans of big business are celebrating stock market rallies and jubilant announcements of first-quarter bank profits, working people face the everyday reality of layoffs and the ensuing poverty.

Over 13 million are out of work. But there’s still plenty of work that needs doing. The sad reality is that our roads, bridges, and public transit systems are crumbling. Our schools are overcrowded. Our energy system is still based on polluting fossil fuels, which is feeding an environmental crisis, which could be confronted by building wind and solar energy generation. Yet under the sick logic of the capitalist system, these problems persist while millions remain out of work.

It’s clear that we can’t rely on Corporate America or their political representatives to put the unemployed back to work. Corporations are cutting jobs and production because it’s simply not profitable for them to put people to work right now. Meanwhile, Washington has forked trillions to bail out the banks, who bear a large responsibility for getting us into this economic mess. State and city governments are laying off public-sector workers, tearing up labor contracts, and gutting social services to plug budget deficits.

Then who can we rely on ? The answer is the unemployed themselves and the tens of millions of employed workers who are always at threat of losing their jobs in the next round of layoffs. It’s in all of our collective interests as working people to reverse the trend of job hemorrhaging and put the unemployed back to work.

What Strategy to Fight Back ?

The main problem is not that working people aren’t angry. Our mass anger was felt by the political establishment after the AIG bonus fiasco. Their fear of our rage was clearly shown when Obama, at a secret meeting with bank executives, was quoted as saying “I’m the only one standing between you and the pitchforks.”

Union and social movement leaders here could channel this anger by following the example of Greece, Italy, and France, where there have been enormous general strikes of millions of workers that have declared “we won’t pay for the bosses’ crisis.”

Last year, workers at the Republic Windows and Doors factory in Chicago became a symbol of struggle for workers around the U.S. They occupied their closed-down plant for six days until they received severance pay and accrued vacation. Through this bold form of struggle, the workers won all their demands. More recently, 50,000 public-sector workers marched in New York City against state and city budget cuts, school closures, and public-sector layoffs. All these examples show that when shown a lead, working people are willing to fight.

But while limited struggles have erupted here and there, no coordinated plan of resistance exists to guide them. A central problem is that the leaders of unions and social movement organizations aren’t providing a serious lead. They generally don’t see any alternative to layoffs during an economic crisis because they see no alternative to capitalism. If you accept the logic that companies have to be profitable and competitive, and don’t see public democratic ownership as a real option, then cuts and layoffs are inevitable. Many union leaders play a role of managing layoffs rather than fighting them.

To mount a serious struggle, a national plan of action needs to be drawn up, calling for a series of escalating mass protests around a bold set of demands. Labor, antiwar, community, environmental, and other organizations should together organize mass nationwide demonstrations and marches on Washington to pressure politicians to bail out the unemployed, not Wall Street. Mobilizations should be linked to running pro-worker candidates for all levels of public office around a program of no cuts and no layoffs, which would nakedly contrast against the Democrats’ and Republicans’ long record of corporate bailouts and hacking away at public services.

The AFL-CIO poured over $200 million (1.4 billion RMB) into electing Democrats last year, mobilizing tens of thousands of activists in door-to-door organizing, taking out TV, radio, and newspaper ads, and more. If they put just half these resources into building coordinated mass demonstrations in every city, the response would be huge. This would do far more in the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act, which the Democrats are allowing to die, than all the lobbying and election donations combined.

The failure of the union and social movement leaders to mobilize a serious resistance underscores the need to rebuild a movement from below, in our communities, workplaces, unions, and campuses. Socialists will aim to play a central role in this process, putting forward a program and strategy for genuine change.

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