In Mid-February, 2021, local service workers in the Kadıköy municipality of Istanbul went on an impromptu strike after the collapse of a five-month long collective bargaining process with the city government. In snow and on the street, the service workers are not only fighting for their welfare, but are going against the same traditional organizations meant to achieve just those ends. They say, as many UAW workers said in the US in 2019, “we don’t recognize the agreement that was signed without us.” The service workers are striking for a much-needed wage hike, the enforcement of the working day, and for worker participation in decision making.
As the workers of Istanbul bravely take to the streets and fight for their rights, here at home, our proletariat is not sleeping. In deeply conservative Montana, where the state court is attempting to rebuff a popular referendum legalizing recreational cannabis, the Republican-controlled legislature has been compelled with their Democratic colleagues to vote down a Right-to-work law as union workers lined the gallery and stood outside the chambers. At the same time, Amazon workers in Bessemer, Alabama, another Right-to-Work state, have collectively agreed to vote to form a union, a vote that will be held-in person, in the middle of a pandemic, at the behest of the company itself. It is no accident that Amazon would seek to endanger its workers in the same state with deep union-busting laws. As of the writing of this article, the vote will move forward, to the awkward praises of President Joe Biden. Talk, unlike labor, is cheap, and until the White House declares its support for the PRO act—a federal law that would effectively end Right-to-work laws and strengthen collective bargaining rights—it pays to remain vigilant against chatter. We will not hold our breath for the candidate running on a living wage and the president that rejects it.
Right-to-work laws have their roots in class warfare, and mean nothing more than right to profit for corporations, and continued precarity for workers. After the passing of the Taft-Harley Act, a law that bound and gagged unions, and purged its leadership and rank-and-file of communists (passing after a season of national strikes in 1945-46 where workers refused to return to the days of Depression as the country faced another crisis), after the success of Taft-Harley, reactionary legislatures all over the country furthered this bill with Right-to-Work laws that allow companies to hire employees without granting them the right to join or form a union. These laws, bosses and politicians claim, bring more freedom and money to the worker. As unemployment holds steady during pandemic, do workers in “Right-to-Work” states really have more money, freedom, or stability? No—terminations and lost hours remain a problem in just those states where there are hallowed “Right-to-Work” laws as unemployment festers. Capitalists will continue to ship jobs overseas to sweatshops and create competition between American workers, this is the ultimate goal of these laws. An unemployed auto worker in Chicago is no problem for bosses when they can pay another worker in Atlanta to do the same job at half the price, or even better, to the developing world to continue the neo-colonial project. There is no humanism, there is no concern in the hearts and minds of the ruling class, there is only profit. This has and will always be their primary motive.
And still, there are cries, even from workers that unions are the real enemy, that all unions are corrupt and will remain corrupt, they are proud to work in a “Right-to-work” state, while it is precisely union busters to blame for purging unions of its best and brightest and making unions vulnerable to the level of bureaucracy observed today. It is the same reason that your vote in the ballot box is a waste of paper, it is not who you vote for or which party you’ve joined, if any, the main mover in our society is profit: someone is bleeding you dry and that someone has a name and a class interest. What a wonderful democracy is it, when your vote can mean nothing if your job is outsourced to someone more desperate that’ll work for less as you don’t get to work at all.
If we are forced to “choose” between more and more unemployment and outsourcing and securing living wages, safe workplaces and worker participation in decision making-then we are not discussing a fair political point, we are not having a sensible debate, we are calling to trial the existence of a whole system that is irreparably based on exploitation and oppression.
Solidarity with striking workers around the world!
Support the PRO act!
Fight for the right of all workers to organize!
Workers democracy now!
No war but the class war!