The Spark

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

Editorial:
Faced with skyrocketing prices, workers need a 25% raise now!

Jun 2, 2008

Big price increases are spreading beyond the enormous jumps in energy and food prices. Since the beginning of the year, steel prices jumped by 40 to 50%. ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker, just announced another 20% increase. And Dow Chemical announced that it is sharply increasing prices on everything from plastics to commodity chemicals.

These lying thieves say their costs are rising, they have no choice but to raise prices.

Get out the violins!

Yes, they have a choice, and they made it. They have taken the axe to their workforce year after year. Worker productivity in steel has increased by more than eight times in two decades. That means a worker today produces on average eight times more than just 20 years ago! And that’s not all. The steel titans slashed wages and benefits. They also dumped their pension promises to all the retirees in outright raids of the pension funds.

The steel industry has been running 10% profit margins – profit margins so high, they are practically unheard of in a capital-intensive industry. The steel companies are rolling in so much money, ArcelorMittal bought up 35 smaller steel companies in just the last year!

The steel industry is not the exception. Dow Chemical made 3 billion dollars in profits – after taxes. And they funneled almost all those profits right back to their stockholders through massive stock buybacks.

Oh yes, sometimes these companies do have cost increases. But for every one dollar extra that they have to pay out, they pass along a two-dollar price increase to us. And every big company and every big industry in the country does the same thing. They all boost their profits by gouging us, first as workers, and then as consumers.

The banks, financial and construction companies have destroyed housing – and set off a foreclosure crisis of historic proportions. The oil companies have made gas so expensive, workers can’t afford to drive their cars. The insurance and health care industry have put ordinary medical care out of the reach of most workers.

So today we find ourselves mired in a crisis, an economic emergency. Just in the last year, prices on what we are paying for have gone up by at least 25%, if not more. Every worker would have to have an immediate wage increase of 25% just to catch up.

If there were a political party that tried to address workers interests, it would propose a law mandating an immediate 25% wage increase paid by all bosses. It would forbid further cost cutting at workers’ expense.

Does anyone believe that the likes of a McCain, Obama or Clinton are about to propose anything like this? No – and everyone knows it.

Don’t look to the elections to get us out of this crisis. Waiting until November is a trap.

We need a raise – a great big one right now. We need jobs. In workplaces, in schools, in the streets, workers have to think about coming together to demand it.

No matter which candidate wins in November, masses of angry workers in the streets can force them to give us much more than anyone could imagine.