The fightback fire is being lit down below

BY:Scott Marshall| February 18, 2011
The fightback fire is being lit down below
Report the the National Committee of the Communist Party USA
February 13, 2011

This report is not so much about the economy as it is about the jobs fight. But some overall points about the economy. This meeting doesn’t need to be told that the economy is bad for working people and getting worse for many. People are falling through the cracks in the system. Everybody heard last month that unemployment dropped from 9.4 to 9% and fortunately a lot of attention was paid to the fact that the drop was mainly due to 99ers (those who have run completely out of unemployment benefits), in particular, falling out of the system. Millions and millions of people are not counted anymore as looking for work and not counted in the unemployment figures.

Manufacturing and durable goods production figures were down again this month even as the pundits touted that the economy was picking up. Without a strong manufacturing and durable goods sector it’s really impossible to have a recovery.

Total construction activity both private and commercial is down again and continuing the downward drift. We all know that the housing crisis bubble has not finished bursting.

Falsely blamed on the freedom movement in Egypt, oil prices are topping $100 a barrel. This will have a huge downward effect on the economy and particularly on working people.

And there are the continuing attacks and cuts in state and local budgets and federal programs. I would add that the ongoing discussion about doing away with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will certainly have a downward pull on the economy as fewer working class people will be able to afford housing. The government spending freeze and the wage freeze also have a very negative impact on the overall economy and on working people.

The jobs fight, the fight of the unemployed, and fight to defend public workers are all the same fight. The overall attack on workers and unions are all basically part of the same fight for jobs and for relief for people who are victims of the system.

The Good Jobs Green jobs conference in Washington DC, the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit and the Steelworkers Rapid Response conference conclusions all really confirm our estimate that the battle is shifting dramatically to local and state struggles.

At the state level the attack is even more drastic than many realize without having a full survey of state and local anti-labor actions. An incredible array of anti-labor, anti-immigrant and racist and anti-women legislation is being proposed is state legislatures by the Republican right wing. Just to mention a few.

Right-to-work laws are pending in Alaska, Hawaii, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Montana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. The attack in Wisconsin is one of the most drastic attacks that you can imagine. It seeks to destroy public workers bargaining rights. The proposed law also mandates that public workers revote every year for their union representation.

“Paycheck deception” laws designed to take away the ability of unions to engage in political action are proposed in 17 states Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. Attacks on the building trades against project labor agreements are proposed in Alabama, Arizona, California, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Indiana, Idaho, Kentucky, Mississippi, Michigan, Mississippi, North Dakota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Attacks on public sector workers union rights and benefits are threatened in Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wisconsin. These include also attacks on education workers and bargaining rights for teachers.

And there is attack legislation against immigrants in 30 states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Italy, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana.

Twenty-eight states are proposing legislation to preempt Card Check and the Employee Free Choice Act. And 25 states have filed suit against implementation of the healthcare act.

One conclusion we have to draw from this is that this is not just a spontaneous thing that’s going on in different states. This is a highly coordinated attack on the working class and on unions and working people across this country. That is what’s going on here. This is not simply a spontaneous happening because of the 2010 elections.

Big business, the Republicans (and some Democrats), and the far right saw the opportunity to launch this all-out attack on the working class. It’s very important that we see it this way. This is the kind of battle that we’re in. Every single one of these over 424 state laws worsens the economic situation. Every single one of them will lead to unemployment and more jobs loss. That’s not even mentioning the horrible cuts that are coming also. Now of course there is fight back and it is an extremely fast-growing fight back. We really need to hear from all across our country, what are the fights going on, so we get a picture of how the working class is responding to this attack.

There is important legislation in the hopper. House Resolution 589 introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Bobby Scott addresses the plight of the 99ers, the long term unemployed. It provides for 14 more weeks of unemployment insurance and has 60 cosponsors. It’s critical legislation that everyone can get a hold of in terms of getting more cosponsors for that bill. This is life-and-death bill for literally millions and millions of people in this country. HR 516 is a bill that is basically an outline for an industrial policy for the country. HR 402 creates a federal infrastructure bank.

Rep. John Conyers will reintroduce his comprehensive infrastructure jobs bill that is financed by a stock transaction tax. It is a vast jobs bill like the WPA that is revenue neutral and does not add to the deficit. In the Senate two sense-of-the-senate bills introduced by Harry Reid are important. SB 1 and SB 2 together basically outline a progressive policy for jobs creation touching on infrastructure, minimum wage and other issues vital to working people. While they are agititational, they do lay out some important elements of a progressive program.

Also local coalitions are developing all over the place at the state and local level. There are grass roots actions and demonstration building momentum all over. Our Jobs committee has discussed some exciting ones from Illinois, Ohio and Connecticut. And we have gotten word of exciting developments in California, Wisconsin and New York.

There are many ways and venues that we have to be involved in struggle. So much takes place at the grassroots, at the local and state level.

We have five main things we need to project going forward.

  1. We have to defend and protect public workers and vital public services. We should never let anybody forget that when you attack public workers you are also cutting out vital services for people who need them most – the working class and the working poor. When people can’t get their unemployment, when people can’t get their disability, when people can’t get public aid, these are all services being threatened when public workers are attacked and laid off.
  2. Relief for the 99ers and the unemployed has to be foremost in our efforts. Including the fight against foreclosures and for food and shelter and for emergency healthcare aid.
  3. We have to fight all the cuts in federal state and local people helping programs. And there are many cuts coming down both spearheaded by the Republican right but also supported by some Democrats. These include heating assistance, unemployment benefits, food programs, emergency health care programs, emergency shelter programs and many more. We have to fight tooth and nail for these kind programs no matter who is proposing the cuts.
  4. Infrastructure is becoming a huge byword in the progressive movements and in the labor movement. This is a movement to develop the kind of job creating infrastructure needed to provide modern, green and sustainable industries and jobs of the future. The infrastructure fight doesn’t only have to be fought at the national level. President Obama has opened the way for infrastructure demands. But even at the local level we can find projects in every state in every city: hospitals that need to be rehabilitated, housing that needs to be rebuilt, schools that need to be modernized, public buildings that need to be weatherized. As the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference concluded, we have to build the grassroots pressure to make these things happen. It’s not going to happen by the president calling for it and it’s not going to happen by introducing bills in Congress. We have to develop locally at the grassroots the demand for infrastructure rebuilding in this country for a sustainable green economy that puts people back to work.
  5. More and more working people are blaming the corporations that the CEOs and the banks for the crisis. We have to make that tie-in for every struggle. We have to contrast the billionaires to working peoples on the tax deal. We have to give a wider kind of class view of what’s happening to people. We have to be very clear who’s to blame for this crisis and who’s not to blame.

There is fightback fire beginning to rage and we have to be in the middle of it. We have to put a premium on unity and broad coalition building. We have to mobilize all of our members, friends and potential allies to join in with others in this fight. We have to see the important role that organized labor is and can play in this fight. Never in our lifetime have we seen labor so coalition oriented reaching out to civil rights, youth, women, immigrant, LGBT and even business forces to build this movement. People are inspired by Egypt. The State House in Madison, Wisconsin is beginning to look like Cairo.



Photo: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 by mar is sea Y 



    Scott Marshall is a vice chair of the Communist Party and chair of its Labor Commission. Scott grew up in Virginia where he first became active in the civil rights movement in high school, working on voter registration and anti-Klan projects in rural Southern Virginia and Tennessee. He was also active against the war in Vietnam.

    Scott has been a life long trade unionist and was active in rank and file reform movements in the Teamsters, Machinists and Steelworkers unions in the 1970s and '80s. He was co-chair of the Save Our Jobs committee of USWA local 1834 at Pullman Standard in Chicago and active in nationwide organizing against plant shutdowns and layoffs. He was a founder of the unemployed organization Jobs or Income Now (Join), in Chicago, and the National Congress of Unemployed Organizations in the 1980s.

    Scott has worked for the Communist Party since 1987 when he became the district organizer for the party in Illinois, a post he held until he was elected chair of the National Labor Commission in 1997. Scott remains active in SOAR (Steelworkers Active Organized Retirees). He lives in Chicago.

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