The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

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

We All Need a Wage Increase to Catch Up with Prices, and We Need It Now!

Aug 1, 2022

What follows is the editorial that appeared on the front of all SPARK’s workplace newsletters, during the week of Jul. 24, 2022.

Go to the grocery store, stop at the gas station and your money runs out. Oh, yes, gasoline prices are coming down—a lot slower than they went up, by the way! But gas is still almost double what it was a couple of years ago.

So-called “experts” have lots of reasons to explain it: the war in Ukraine, the corona virus, problems with shipping. Everything but the main reason, which is that every company is raising prices as fast as it can. Will they drive up inflation? They don’t care. They are protecting their profits.

Well, their inflation is killing us. And we need to protect our standard of living.

First, we need a wage increase—a big enough increase so we can all catch up with what we already lost to inflation. And we need it now.

Second, we shouldn’t ever again lose out to inflation. Our wages should be tied to prices, with a system for pushing wages up just as soon as prices go up again. It should be automatic, it should happen immediately, and it should go up every bit as much as prices go up.

Third, minimum wage should be set so a small family—the family of a young worker just starting out—can live comfortably. No one should have to work for today’s “minimum wage,” no matter what it is. The minimum wage set in every city and state is pitiful—even the $15 an hour some cities and states brag about.

From the standpoint of working people, these are reasonable measures. But capitalist society lives by different measures, ones aimed at protecting the drive for more profit.

If you doubt that, look at what just happened to the railroad workers.

They recently voted to strike. It was long overdue. They had gone three years without a wage increase, three years during which the railroads stonewalled the union in contract negotiations.

The union leadership, based on the strike vote, finally settled on a strike date—only to have the government jump in to block it. Biden used provisions of an anti-worker law, the Railway Labor Act, to call for a 60-day “cooling off period.” It was a government-caused delay, after three years of delays created by the railroads—which, by the way, were turning in record profits.

At the end of 60 days, there can be more delays. The same act has other provisions allowing the government to continue blocking a strike.

In other words, the same union contract negotiations that at one time might have protected parts of the working class no longer do so.

That doesn’t mean that we have no way to protect ourselves. It just means we have to look for other ways to organize our forces. We have to go beyond our own union—if we even have one, anymore. We have to go beyond our own employer or industry.

It’s important that rail workers took the step of voting for a strike. Unless someone decides to fight, we all just sit on our behinds, caught in a swamp.

It will be even more important if rail workers actually do strike, whether in 60 days or 120 days ... or tomorrow. That could be the trigger to set off a much wider fight—just as any struggle anyplace by any group of workers can be what sets off a new movement by the working class.

It’s obvious we all have a reason to fight, the same reason. We all face the same big problem today, galloping inflation.

The answer to it is simple, the same for all of us: an immediate wage increase, a way to keep our wages tied to prices, and an adequate wage for everyone.

Of course, we won’t get that without a fight. But fights will break out. The problem then will be to focus our fights on common goals that unite us all. What will be key is whether there are enough militants committed to finding common aims around which the whole working class can fight.