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February, 2006

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Rust Belt workers under attack
Where do we go from here??

There is a lot of evidence nowadays that the corporations that once provided good-paying jobs with good benefits to at least some workers in this country are no longer going to do that. Recent events surrounding the auto industry in the Midwestern "Rust Belt" -- specifically the actions of Delphi, GM and Ford -- are ample proof of this.

The auto makers have moved to cut jobs, wages, health care benefits and pensions on a huge scale. The organized workers that have enjoyed a relatively high standard of living are seeing a massive assault on their rights and their way of life. The workers employed by these corporations and their allies, are responding with rallies, picketing, meetings, lawsuits and forming new organizations. They are being forced to wake up to the realities of a global economy and unbridled corporate power.

The corporations have been able to launch this attack with relative impunity in part because of the combination of technology replacing labor and the fact that there is a global economy with global competition for jobs. With more jobs being done by robots, there are fewer jobs available. And -- to go back to the example of the auto workers -- North America-based corporations are not going to go on paying auto workers $28 an hour when auto workers in other countries are being paid $2 or $3 an hour. The bottom line with business is staying in business and making the most profit possible. For workers, under these conditions, this means a race to the bottom in wages and benefits worldwide.

The corporations are also able to attack us with impunity because the corporations and the government are essentially one and the same. The legislatures, the courts, and the police are essentially arms of the corporate power that is tightening its grip on our country. The government will not hold the corporations accountable, because the corporations are the government. What do we do? The situation points to the critical importance of bringing new ideas to bear. We, the people, have to start thinking outside the box. The corporate powers that be have a vision of what they're trying to achieve -- a society under their thumb and workers willing to accept whatever they are given. They know where they're going. We have to have a vision of the new society that is both possible and necessary under these conditions. We have to know where we're going.

We are going to have to wake up to the fact that the companies and the government won't help us. Our society will continue to grow more and more impoverished so long as we let it. The time is absolutely ripe to think outside the box about what we could have, if we're willing to get organized and struggle for it -- a cooperative society based on public ownership of the giant corporations; a society where no one has to worry about job security or health care, where we the people run things and make the decisions, not a handful of private people who are beyond public accountability.

To achieve something, you first have to visualize what it is you're trying to achieve. We have to understand that there is no going back to the old way of life. Technology and globalization have eliminated any possibility of that. We have to move forward into something new if we're going to survive and thrive. The organized workers of the Rust Belt have a history of struggling for what they need. If they can visualize what must be done, they can play a leading and useful role in the struggles that are to come.

This article originated in the People's Tribune
PO Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654, 773-486-3551, info@peoplestribune.org.
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