Selected Shorts

Some Thoughts on Working Class Consciousness: What Does it Mean?

It means understanding that it’s more important to build solidarity among workers and different unions than building an identity with your boss.

It means understanding that progress for workers in areas like the eight hour day, overtime laws, Social Security, Medicare, etc. were won in struggle against the corporations and rich.

It means understanding that our real power is rooted in our ability to generate member involvement and mass pressure to win.

It means understanding that the issues and concerns of working people are the same for the vast majority of citizens in our country.

It means understanding that real leadership comes from a set of standards and principles that doesn’t change with the seasons and “styles” of the day.

It means understanding that ours is a movement and not a campaign – it’s bigger than each one of us and that people will join us if we lead by example.

Committee for Labor Action Struggle and Solidarity (CLASS)

Is it worthwhile to dialogue with the Power Structure?

I’m not sure, since nothing that we say will change THEIR thinking, which is motivated, not by reason, but by their need for dollars and power. And we may even be giving them clues on how to present their case better!
On the other hand, they have access to mass media, and a dialogue with them might even lead to a public debate? Fat chance! Though, if we planned out a campaign to invade TV news by attending an election campaign meeting, with our supporters primed with questions and spotted around the hall I could imagine some success.
And then there’s alternative media like People’s Press, which I think has its own importance, both for honing our communication skills and boosting our morale – both of key importance in crashing the media party. And there’s leafletting, both on the street and at establishment campaign stops:
I sense that we’re not getting the response that we should, and don’t know what we should do about it.
Since organizing is all about communicating, I think we should be considering how to communicate better, as well as focusing on what issues are most fruitful, and how to “frame” them. Should we coordinate with alternative parties, like the Greens . What to Do? How to do it?

-Jim Amory

Thoughts on Bargaining

I used to be a police officer and we were union. So were the firefighters in the municipality I worked in. The two unions used to race to get a contract deal every year because usually whoever settled first got a better deal. Then the other one was pretty much screwed: they got nothing and had to fight. I’m sure it was a tactic by the city but would probably never get proven. One of the veteran officers who came from a different department a few years before I got hired always said our union leaders and the firefighters’ union leaders should start having lunch together twice a week or stand out behind the stations drinking coffee in places where the city leaders could see them. When asked what they were doing just say, “talking about contract negotiations,” and it would scare the living hell out of the city bosses. I wish all unions and workers would do the same thing. It would sure benefit everyone in the long run. They wouldn’t have to work on anything or talk about anything other than the weather but just seeing them meeting might give the bosses and corporations an ‘UH-OH’ thought for a while. Just my thoughts and ideas.

B.N., Railroad Workers United

Selection from “A Factory as it Might Be,”  by William Morris

Editorial Note: William Morris (1834-1896) was a British poet and socialist, known for his critique of capitalist competition and founding of the Socialist League in 1884. He also started an early profit sharing program in his own silk dyeing factory. This piece contains Morris’ thoughts on what a factory run along socialist principles would function and who said factory would be run and operated for, namely workers and society at large instead of stockholders.

Machines of the most ingenious and best-approved kinds will be used when necessary, but will be used simply to save human labour…The manufacture of useless goods, whether harmful luxuries for the rich or disgraceful make-shifts for the poor, having come to an end…it follows that much less labour will be necessary for each workman…so that the working time of each member of our factory will be very short, say, to be much within the mark, four hours a day.

…such a factory will surely be a centre of education; any children who seem likely to develop gifts toward its special industry would gradually and without pain, amidst their book-learning be drawn into technical instructions which would bring them at least into a thorough apprenticeship for their craft therefore, the bent of each child having been considered in choosing its instruction and occupation, it is not too much to expect that children so educated will look forward eagerly to the time when they will be allowed to work at turning out real useful wares.

This education so begun for the child will continue for the grown man, who will have every opportunity to practice the niceties of his craft if he be so minded, carry it to the utmost degree of perfection, not for the purpose of using his extra knowledge and skill to sweat his fellow-workman, but for his own pleasure and honour as an artist…

No one can say that such things are not desireable for the workers; but we Socialists are striving to make them seem not only desireable but necessary, well knowing that under the present system of society they are impossible of attainment-and why?…Because we are at war, class against class, and man against man; all our time is taken up with that; we are forced to busy ourselves not with the arts of peace, but with the arts of war, which are, briefly, trickery and oppression. Under such conditions of life, labour can but be a terrible burden, degrading to the workers, more degrading to those who live upon their work.

This is the system which we seek to overthrow and supplant by one in which labour will no longer be a burden.

Is A Walmart Wage a Livable Wage?

Walmart has received a tremendous amount of national publicity with the announcement that in April 2015 it will increase the minimum hourly rate for its employees to $9 per hour. The employees will still not make a living wage because the work week is 34 hours per week. This amounts to $15,912 per year. This certainly is not a living wage for an employee with a family.
A  2014 Report from Americans for Tax Fairness shows Walmart is subsidized by the Federal taxpayers to the tune of $7.8 billion per year through the food stamp program that helps maintain its employees. One in ten employees is eligible for food stamps. Walmart gets a second bite of the apple when 15% of those food stamps are used in the Walmart store.
Because of the low pay and limited working hours and lack of benefits the employees must also obtain other forms of public assistance. The total cost to the taxpayers who subsidize the low paid Walmart employees is estimated at $4,415 annually per employee.

Job development

When the media talks about job development it must add the hourly pay rate, fringe benefits and  work hours per week to the discussion.

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