The Spark

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

The Capitalist Drive for Profit Is the Real Pandemic

Jan 3, 2022

The CDC recently issued a new recommendation to employers, shortening the period that people with Covid infections should remain isolated from 10 days down to five days. On top of that, the CDC also said that a negative Covid test was no longer required for a worker to return to work.

Thus, the CDC gave its stamp of approval for employers to force workers back to work when they are still sick with Covid. It also provided cover for employers that decide to slash sick pay for workers with Covid.

The CDC, the public health care agency that made these recommendations, is supposed to be run by doctors. But only doctors serving the interests of big business would recommend something so inhumane, so barbaric.

Isn’t it obvious? Forcing sick workers back on the job only makes them sicker. And it spreads the disease even more.

But so what, said the CDC—airline executives were complaining that too many workers were out on sick leave and they didn’t have enough workers to keep the planes flying.

This is complete baloney. The pandemic didn’t cause the shortage of workers. The companies did—by cutting their workforce to the bone in order to increase their profits!

Two years ago, when the pandemic broke out, those same airline executives slashed jobs left and right. They forced workers to take early retirement and so-called “voluntary” furloughs. At the same time, the airline companies went to the government, hat in hand, and said they needed hundreds of billions of dollars in aid… to preserve jobs! So, the politicians gave it to them in direct cash handouts, as well as new tax breaks and other giveaways. But the jobs were already gone! The companies just kept the money, handed it out to top executives and distributed it to big stockholders.

Sure, when business began to pick up, the airlines began to hire. But they didn’t bring back nearly as many jobs as they had cut just two years ago. The executives even bragged to their stockholders about it. “…we can fly a schedule 10% larger than 2019 with the same number of employees we needed in 2019,” said Gerald Laderman of United Airlines on November 10.

On December 16, Ed Bastian, the head of Delta Airlines, told stockholders that the company had hired back fewer workers than it lost during the pandemic. “Our staffing is exactly where I wanted it to be,” bragged Bastian. Five days later Bastian officially called on the CDC to reduce the isolation period of workers sick with Covid because of the worker shortage that Delta itself had created.

No, the worker shortage wasn’t caused by the virus—but by Delta’s own drive for profit, forcing fewer people to do more work.

The corporate drive for profit also created the severe shortage of Covid testing that we are now facing, with pharmacies running out of rapid Covid tests and long, long lines of people waiting at testing centers.

It’s been two years since the pandemic broke out. Why is there such a shortage? Last summer, Abbott, the biggest company that makes rapid Covid tests, destroyed hundreds of millions of tests. It also closed one of two factories that make the tests ... and laid off 2,000 workers.

Abbott was paid billions of dollars by the federal government to produce those tests. But it sought to make even more by slashing its workforce and creating an artificial shortage in order to boost the price of each test.

Now, Abbott and other companies are using the shortage that they themselves created in order to jack up the price. Biden says that health insurance companies are supposed to provide reimbursement for those tests. But whether or not we ever get reimbursed, the insurance company will still make us pay by increasing our premiums. Those without insurance—that is, the people who can least afford it—will have to pay the full amount out of their own pocket.

Executives, government officials, the news media—they all say that we have to come together to fight the pandemic. But in reality, the capitalist class is taking advantage of the pandemic in order to enrich itself and increase profits still further. The proof is that profits last year hit record highs. And so did the stock market. Record highs … in the middle of a pandemic, when hundreds of thousands are dying, millions are getting sick, and tens of millions are practically imprisoned in their homes, unable to venture outside.

That’s the class war the capitalist class is waging against the working population for its own profit. It is that class war that is prolonging this pandemic and making it worse—not the virus. The capitalists profit off of this pandemic. They profit off of workers’ sickness and death.

This will not change as long as the capitalists have the power. The only protection workers have is in their own organization and ability to fight. It’s this ability that gives the working class the way to organize health and safety according to the needs of the population—and damn the profits for the few. It’s this ability that will enable the working class to stand up and wrench control away from the capitalist class.