The Spark

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

Shipyard workers strike

Mar 19, 2007

On March 8, about 7,000 workers went on strike against a Northrop Grumman shipyard. The Mississippi yard, near Pascagoula, builds Navy ships. Workers said they could not live any more on $18.32 an hour and the company’s offer of $2.50 over three years doesn’t begin to make up what they need.

The area around the shipyard was devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and it has been just as little rebuilt as New Orleans. Rents have doubled, and milk costs $4.19 a gallon. A welder told reporters that half the workers are still living in trailers.

But how much different is this from the general social catastrophe surrounding the whole working class today? The hurricane of cutbacks in jobs, wages, health care, and social services, as well as price hikes in essentials such as gasoline, heating fuel and electricity, means that the standard of living for every worker is dropping fast.

Northrop Grumman said its contract offer was “fair and competitive.” This is company-speak the world over. It means, “we are making a lot of money and we want to keep it all.” Workers hear that story all the time, whether in a hurricane-devastated area or not.

The only resort left for workers is to take joint collective action, in self-defense. The shipyard workers deserve a decent life from the value their work has created – and that is true for each and every worker who is under attack today, whether hit by Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Capital.