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The 'Fight for $15' and the Return of the Vanishing Worker


The 'Fight for $15' and the Return of the Vanishing Worker

Richard Eskow

On April 15, perhaps as you’re reading these words, working people in 200 American cities will rally for a $15 base wage and the right to form a union. Solidarity demonstrations are planned in more than 30 cities on six continents, and have already taken place in Switzerland, the Philippines, South Korea, New Zealand, and Japan.


I would be very surprised if there are any such demonstrations in my state. North Carolina is an employer's state. Employees basically have only one right here- the right to leave a job if they don't like the terms set forth by their employer. The problem is that all the employers set forth the same wretched terms... So, what choice does anyone have? That's right - STRIKE ALL ACROSS THE STATE!!!!


It might be said that the hourly wage is where the rubber meets the road for working people. To work for a 'wage' is the very definition of 'The Working Class' and an increase would be the most direct and efficient manner to alleviate the immediate situation of insufficient income to provide the basic needs to survive. In order to bring the working class back to the level of relative income to 1975 levels, the minimum wage would need to raised to three times its current level so it is safe to say that the current demand is well adjusted to the prevailing political situation and can best be described as a rear-guard action which can only retard the rate of descent into abject poverty. Food service has some leverage in that those jobs cannot be sent off-shore as manufacturing has been. However, there are technical innovations on the horizon that will expedite the elimination of many types of food service labor. We can expect those innovations to accelerate across the food service industry. The point here is to illustrate that the solution for preventing a permanent, growing sub-class of working poor is not to focus on the point of where the rubber meets the road but to appreciate where that road leads and the vehicle that is deployed to take us there. Corporate and plutocratic power endeavors tirelessly to maintain the fracture faults within the society. Almost without exception, the institutional apparatus of the state hinders or exacerbates these fracture points. The militarized police being a glaring example but in general you will find a institutional bias against the working poor throughout the entire structure. Anti-union bias in the press and legislatures that ignores the very real history that unions created the middle class in America and the decline of worker solidarity coincides with the pauperization of the working and middle class. These realities cannot be overcome unless working people themselves reject the methodology of the ruling elite, reject the poison of racism, reject the empty 'values' rhetoric of the political parties and throw out the wholly unrealistic idea that salvation is going to be 'given'. Our own American history as well as that of all places and all times proclaims a very different reality.


Everyone should support this. We've got to accomplish what is known as "Jacking up the house." Once these unskilled, uneducated, common workers shut down the system for better wages, the rest of us have a case for ours being raised as well.

Wall Street did us a dirty. To subvert Federal Labor Law, they off-shored every job they could. I know. I got off-shored. The first thing they claimed was that Federal Labor Law did not apply to us since we lived on an island outside the U.S. They brought in local workers not even making minimum wage, to replace one of our routes. We knew right then, we had to get a Union on the property fast, and have a job action or we would have no bargaining strength at the table with management.

Ours was the first job action against this fanatical Fortune-500 slave-ship operator in its history. They fired 250 of our flight attendants specifically stating it was because they were Union members so we got the NMB (National Mediation Board) to declare our pilot union vote contaminated, since the `CEO sent us a red letter threatening us if we voted for a union. We won by 51% with over 50 percent required to pass. We shut down much of their operation by making costly mistakes (could happen to anyone, right?) Management suddenly had a change of heart and we finally got a decent contract with health insurance, retirement, work rules and "scope" clause, guaranteeing we flew the routes, not cheap foreign labor.

It was an uphill battle and it took ten years, but it is the only way.