The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Surge in COVID-19, Surge in Unemployment

Jul 19, 2020

With the filing of 1.2 million new unemployment claims just in this past week, the total number of unemployed workers currently drawing benefits has reached a staggering 32 million! New unemployment claims have been over one million a week for 17 weeks in a row! This is not all the unemployed. It is estimated that the real unemployment may be one in every four workers.

So why are we seeing this record surge in unemployment?

First of all, there is the virus. It continues to spread, rocketing throughout the southeast and southwest and reaching record numbers of new infections. One state alone, Florida, has more new COVID-19 cases than all of Europe combined. And, deaths are also now on a steady upturn.

Businesses that were pushed to reopen before it was safe are again closing. Small businesses may not survive this downturn.

But the big increase in unemployment has another cause. The biggest employers are laying off workers as well. And why? Because their profit margins are off. Some of them simply shut down if they are unable to take a certain rate of profit. Others continue to produce, but push many fewer workers to turn out the same amount of work.

That’s what’s happening right now in the big for-profit hospital chains. Right at the point more people are needed to provide care, some of the biggest hospitals are laying off. How can we be lacking in nurses, nurses’ aids, sanitary workers, in janitors and maintenance people, when there are people who could do the work?

Something similar is happening in public services. Running big deficits, cities and states are cutting workers instead of cutting out gifts they give to the big companies.

What kind of system lays off hospital workers, in the middle of a pandemic crisis? What kind of system decides that public services, including public health, will be shut down at the very moment they are most needed?

When the pandemic began, we suffered through the outrage of unavailable ventilators and masks and personal protective equipment. Well states like Texas and Florida and Arizona, and South Carolina and Georgia and California are stuck in that same situation again. How is that possible with all the unemployed workers available who could have been making this equipment? Companies didn’t rush to make this equipment because there wasn’t enough profit in it.

How can there be talk of opening schools when there are no plans to hire more people to make the schools safe? In the midst of an epidemic, the schools need many more teachers and other workers to make and keep them safe, not fewer.

There are millions of unemployed people who could be hired to do this work. They aren’t hired because the bosses don’t want to take out of their profit to organize essential work safely.

Workers should refuse to listen to all this drivel about lack of money! The billions in profits that have been squeezed out of workers’ labor for years, are being supplemented by continued new transfers of money away from workers’ income and into the pockets of the rich!

The money is there to do what is needed, in the banks. Their banks. Banks run by the capitalist class. If workers don’t mobilize to take some of this wealth back and impose a different functioning, we may well be the ones lying under the rubble of a collapsed capitalist system.

Working people could organize a totally different system—one that would benefit the majority of the population, not the tiny minority of super rich. One that would direct workers and resources to where they are needed. One that would share out the work that needs to be done among all the people who want a job, and organize it safely.

The working class has the ability to do all that. We work, we know what is needed, we know what is possible, we could use the wealth to make sure everyone has a safe job with decent income.