Aug 30, 2010
For the last three months, 305 workers at a Mott’s applesauce plant in upstate New York have been out on strike against the outrageous demands of a profitable company, pushing to take still more concessions.
Mott’s demanded a $1.50-an-hour wage cut, an increase in workers’ share of health care premiums and other costs, a freeze on pensions, and elimination of pensions for new hires – the kinds of concessions that companies all over the country have been stealing for years.
During negotiations, the plant manager told workers that they “were a commodity like soybeans and oil, and the price of commodities goes up and down....[that] there are thousands of people in this area without jobs, and Mott could hire any one of them for $14 an hour.”
In that one statement, we hear the arrogance of the whole capitalist class – their intention to use the bad times that the capitalists themselves created in order to keep on wringing even more concessions out of labor. Even when the capitalists are making a big profit.
It seems to be an unequal fight. Mott is part of a monster conglomerate – Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, which includes 50 brands, among them 7Up and Hawaiian Punch. And, of course, behind this food industry conglomerate stand the big banks, and most particularly Wells Fargo Bank. Not to mention the media, most of the politicians and the other enforcers of modern day capitalist society.
But these 305 workers have something on their side. They are part of a class, the working class. Together our class has the forces to throw back all the industrialists and all their bankers. And large parts of the working class are fed up today with what’s happening.
Witness the “NO” votes springing up here and there this past year. It may not have started when Ford workers nationwide turned down another demand for concessions last October. But that one vote, coming as it did in the face of a union bureaucracy intent on doing the bosses’ dirty work, was a declaration of independence.
What Ford workers set in motion, other workers picked up: city and county workers in Detroit, Michigan; former Delphi workers; teachers in other states; GM workers in Indianapolis. Every one of them was a declaration of intent: we will not give up any more.
But it can’t stop there, just with “NO.” To enforce our “NO,” we must be prepared to fight. And that’s why the Mott strike going on today near Rochester, New York is important. Perhaps it marks the next step in the long road to defend ourselves, our families and our communities.
When we join in to make our own fight, we will reinforce what’s going on at Mott’s, giving those workers a much better chance to win, giving ourselves the way to start taking back what we gave up.
It’s appropriate that Labor Day 2010 is marked by a militant strike, and by resistance from other workers. The sleeping giant has to wake up.