Oct 8, 2001
Accept layoffs without a whimper; let our conditions of work degrade still further; pay more for our health care. This is supposed to be our patriotic duty.
Politician after politician rushed down to the site of the bombing – in order to be photographed shaking hands with a rescue worker while telling us we must all sacrifice. (It apparently didn’t bother them that they were interfering with the rescue effort, tying up police to protect them, firemen to guide them, and rescue workers who didn’t dare move anything for fear of causing something to fall on the head of another self-serving politician.)
Company after company issued hypocritical press releases talking about the pain of those who were killed and injured, the self-sacrificing bravery of the firemen. But they didn’t hesitate to do what was best for them after September 11 – including pulling money out of the stock market, sending it into a downspin. Morgan Stanley, the investment company, which lost 700 employees in the collapse of the World Trade Center, began speculating on the fall of the stock market the day it reopened. It made a tidy profit off this tragedy – the capitalist fashion of honoring their dead.
These are the same people who tell us we must sacrifice because September 11 changed everything.
No, September 11 simply gave all these companies the excuse to impose what they had already started doing. Before September 11, they had already announced over a million job cuts.
What is changed – or so the companies hope – is that they now can do it without us putting up any resistance. After all, it wouldn’t be patriotic for us to resist the cutbacks.
To be sure we get the message, they pass out flags, put up signs, give us lapel pins – all in red, white and blue. Those flags are supposed to make us forget this very real division in the “American people”: On the one side are the super-patriotic bosses, whose main aim is to wring more profits out of us to overcome the problems they caused in their own economy, using September 11 to hide what they are doing; on the other side, are all of us who work, who did not create the problems the economy is going through, but are being asked to sacrifice in the name of “national unity.”
There is no reason that any worker should lose a job today. September 11 didn’t change the need we all have for housing, food, transportation, clothing, education, medical care, not to mention occasional amusement and relaxation. And our needs can be met only by other people who continue to work. Just as we are needed on our jobs to fulfill the needs of other people.
We should not make a single sacrifice. If sacrifices need to be made, then let the bosses who are making the millions and billions and who created the problems, both before and after September 11, make the sacrifices.
The unions today, even as reduced as they have become, could lead a fight against all job cuts, no matter where. They are big enough, organized enough to do it. But to do it, they cannot accept the phony talk about sacrifices for the “common good,” any more than we can.
We have to start from the question of what we need. We need jobs. We need decent pay and benefits. Those should be our priorities. If we all had them, the economy would be zipping along.