“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx
Aug 13, 2001
For big parts of the working class, the dog days of summer have been no picnic. And, with Labor Day approaching, the situation of the working class promises to get no better.
Almost all the big companies have been threatening massive new job cuts. In July alone, they announced plans to cut 206,000 jobs, the highest number for a single month in a decade. And this comes on the heels of the hundreds of thousands of job cuts that companies announced since January.
These cuts have come in almost every sector. So far this year, the telecommunications sector announced 175,000 job cuts, the computer companies announced cuts of 101,000 jobs, automotive companies announced 91,800 job cuts, and the electronics and other industrial sectors have said they intend on cutting 162,000 jobs.
These announcements spell nothing less than a new corporate offensive against the working class. Some workers are losing their jobs through layoffs. Still more jobs are being eliminated through attrition, that is, by not filling open positions. This is then being used as the opening wedge to attack the rest of the work force by demanding that those who are left take up the slack. The underlying threat is that if workers don't carry a heavier load, even more jobs will be eliminated –by farming out the work to other locations in the same company, or by selling off parts of the company to other owners, that won't be so "generous." For the new generation, once again the only jobs available will be McDonald’s jobs – or the street and prison.
Of course, for the working class, the elimination of the best paying jobs is nothing new. Over the past two decades, the biggest companies have all reduced their work force. Even during the supposed good times, the last 10 years of supposed unprecedented prosperity, which saw companies' profits leap from one record to another, job cuts continued. Our wages and benefits fell or at best stagnated.
That's how these companies got the working class to pay for its good times.
What’s different today is the extent of the job cuts – and the speed with which the announcements keep coming.
Today these companies dare to say they see trouble. They pretend that profits are in a tailspin, that the companies are "spilling red ink." Of course, in the real world this means that company profits are not rising quite so fast. Even in the rare cases where some of these companies can claim to be losing money, most of those losses have come from the expenses they say they are paying for carrying out their announced job cuts.
The "costs" that these companies incur for cutting thousands of our jobs are then used as the pretext to ... cut our jobs.
The big companies – and the media that serve them – act at though these cuts are inevitable, like some kind of force of nature.
It’s not true. These companies are incredibly rich. They handout fabulously high executive salaries, bonuses and stock options. They provide their executives with fleets of corporate jets, limousines, helicopters and other toys. They pour billions of dollars into plans to boost corporate share prices by buying back company stock, and they pay billions more in dividends. They buy up other companies. They speculate in real estate – and on Wall Street.
The money is there which could be used to improve the situation of the working class. What has been missing so far is the determination by the union leaders to lead a fight against the job cuts. The working class needs leaders who will put the interests of the working class first.
No more job cuts, not a single one. Reverse the speed-up, slow down the pace of work. Bring workers back and hire more workers. Pay us all a decent wage, so we aren’t forced to work gobs of overtime just to pay the bills.
Use the wealth our labor creates to provide a decent life for all of us. Let Labor Day 2001 be dedicated to that aim.