By Jon Flanders, retired President and member of IAM Local Lodge 1145.
As Labor Day 2016 rolls around, workers in the U.S. face multiple attacks on their standard of living. Whether it is the threat of a trade agreement like the TPP which could nullify concessions wrung from corporations in a struggle, or cuts in pensions, increasingly unaffordable health insurance, stagnating wages and horrific environmental disasters, like the Baton Rouge floods. Everywhere a working person looks, menace looms.
This is not to say that there have not been victories. In some cities, advances have been made towards a $15 an hour minimum wage, and the Communication Workers of America (CWA) successfully pushed back Verizon in a hard fought strike. More working class movements like this are needed if the historic gains that were won in the great labor battles of the twentieth century are to be preserved in the twenty-first.
2016 is a presidential election year. The two major parties, who hold a virtual monopoly in the political field through links to their corporate masters, have managed to nominate two of the most unpopular candidates in most people’s memory. Their candidates roam the country, seeking votes from unhappy workers tired of empty promises for change and giving lip service to their demands. Both parties are counting on dislike for their opponent to convince reluctant voters to pull the lever for the “lesser evil.” What these candidates don’t do, is use their campaigns to build working class movements. Rather, they seek to divert activists from movement building into electoral campaigns.
Unlike most advanced capitalist countries, the working class of the U.S. does not have a party of its own. A party that is independent of the corporations that fund and dominate the Democrats and Republicans. Organized labor still finds itself in a futile struggle to get the Democratic Party to support its agenda.
There is, however, a pro-worker party on 41 state ballots in this year. The Green Party is a party that does not take corporate donations and takes the side of working people in their struggles for justice. The labor platform of the Campaign of Jill Stein for President and Ajamu Baraka for Vice President states the following:
“Jobs as a Right, and Key Support for Labor
“Create living-wage jobs for every American who needs work, replacing unemployment offices with employment offices. Government would be the employer of last resort, and the unemployed would have an enforceable right to make government provide work. Create direct public employment, as the Works Progress Administration did, in public services and public works for those who can’t find private employment.
“Advance workers’ rights to form unions, achieve workplace democracy, and keep a fair share of the wealth they create.
“Enact the Green Deal full-employment program to create 20 million green jobs in sustainable energy, mass transit, sustainable organic agriculture, clean manufacturing and improved infrastructure, as well as social work, teaching, health care, after-school and home care, drug rehabilitation and other service jobs.
“Provide grants and low-interest loans to green businesses and cooperatives, with an emphasis on small, locally-based companies that keep the wealth created by local labor circulating in the community, rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors.
“Replace NAFTA and other corporate free-trade agreements that export American jobs, depress wages, and undermine the sovereign right of Americans and citizens of other countries to control their own economy and political choices. Enact fair-trade laws that benefits local workers and communities.
“Repeal the Taft-Hartley Act which banned secondary boycotts and permitted state “right-to-work” laws. Enact a federal just-cause law (to prohibit firing without just cause) and outlaw scabbing on striking workers.”
On this Labor Day the Green Party urges working people to break from the two-party duopoly and support the pro-worker candidates of the Green Party, Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka.