PHILADELPHIA, PA, August 4 — A group of hospital workers recently marched on the nursing administration to protest the bosses making one worker do the work of two different job classifications.
The workers’ march was provoked by the bosses persuading a nursing assistant to do the job of a nursing clerk. Because this worker wasn’t an actual nursing clerk, the bosses had her enter nursing notes into the computer using an RN’s name. Not only is this a speed-up and a contract violation, but it is also illegal. Even the RN was afraid that she would be in trouble if the wrong notes were entered. A second union member resisted when the bosses tried to force her to do the same thing. She contacted a union delegate who organized a meeting for the clerical workers that led to the march.
While this increased activity can temporarily improve morale, it also highlights some important questions: Where is this activity leading us? Will the unions we’re in (or the unions we want to join) convince us that we have no choice but to accept more layoffs and cutbacks “because of the economy”. Will the workers’ inevitable anger and militancy be watered down into paper grievances, drawn-out legal fights in the bosses’ courts, and voting for the “lesser-evil” bosses’ politicians?
Or will workers refuse to accept that the working class must pay for the bosses’ economic crisis? “Union ideas” alone don’t show workers that we must defy every aspect of the capitalist class system. Heck, “union ideas” these days mean concession after concession without any fight
The rich bonuses paid to the bosses in the auto industry and Goldman-Sachs show that “belt-tightening” only applies to the working class. Despite the U.S. bosses’ efforts to downplay class differences, the working class has nothing in common with the bosses. Our interests can only be served by PLP’s ideas of overthrowing capitalism with communist revolution.
Strikes must be built, scabs must be stopped, injunctions and the cops who enforce them must be defied, and international multi-racial unity must develop. Past union movements have pursued these goals and won significant reform victories, but now so many of those victories have been taken back. The attack on the auto workers’ pensions alone undermines the pension of every other worker. That’s why all of our fights must have the ultimate goal of communist revolution. Communist ideas give us the understanding to see how even a defeat of one reform fight or another can be a victory if it advances the revolutionary movement.
The current struggle of one Philadelphia union shows the damage when there are no communist ideas to challenge the bosses. After working under their previous contract for the last 18 months, union workers at Acme food markets just overwhelmingly approved a contract recommended by their union leadership, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776. Although Acme leads this area in sales, their competitors are gaining and Acme’s response is to attack their higher-paid union workers. Acme currently paid “250 percent higher than the average competitor in the Northeast region” for health benefits according to Acme’s President Judith A. Spires.
The new contract accepted by the Acme workers has major concessions. The bosses will reduce the percentage of full-time workers from 23% to 18%. This hurts younger workers by reducing the number of available better-paying jobs. The new contract also allows Acme to lease areas in their stores, opening up the door to replacing higher-paid jobs like union butchers with lower-paid workers brought in by sub-contractors.
Why did the Acme workers accept these cutbacks? Without communist ideas the workers were limited to the “leadership” of their union
officials and the bosses. For example, one worker told a reporter, “There’s no strike, which is very good, because no one wins at that,” This is the same idea preached by Acme’s President. “We have to tighten our belts and stop the bleeding,” Spires said “Nobody wants a strike. Nobody wins in a strike.” No wonder the ACME workers conceded without a fight.
We don’t have to be stuck in a system basically playing by the bosses’ rules and fighting the same fights over and over again. Capitalism’s history shows it can only bring workers crises, misery, racism, sexism and war. Communist revolution and building PLP are the only tickets off this bloody merry-go-round.