Mass strikes in US as workers rise up in ‘Striketober’

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The US working class has mobilised in an unprecedented wave of mass strikes across the country this month in what is being designated as ‘Striketober’.

Over ten thousand workers at 14 John Deere plants walked out on October 14 closing down the US’s largest manufacturer of agricultural equipment.

Their strike followed a ballot in which 90% of United Auto Workers (UAW) voted to reject a new contract and for a strike against the massive exploitation by the giant company which included forcing employees to work overtime during the pandemic with a working day of 10 to 12 hours throughout the week and Saturdays.

UAW workers at the company are demanding an end to the two-tier pay system that means anyone employed after 1997 receives fewer benefits.

While John Deere workers, who were classified as essential during the pandemic, have borne cuts and forced overtime, the company in 2021 recorded a record profit of $4.7 billion in the first nine months while it paid out over $1.7 billion in dividends to shareholders.

David Schmelzer, a former chairman of UAW Local 79, summed up the feelings of the workers saying: ‘Workers in this country need to understand that we have a considerable amount of power, if we choose to utilise it, and there’s no reason why we should stand back and let these companies just completely exploit our labour for billions of dollars and fight tooth and nail not to give us anything.’

This recognition of the power of the working class has spread like wildfire in the US, as it is spreading in the UK and Europe.

1,400 Kellogg workers walked out on October 5th, and remain on strike, closing down all four US Kellogg plants after they rejected a new two-tier contract.

On October 11 over 30,000 healthcare workers at the Kaiser Permanente health care provider voted by 96% to authorise a strike after rejecting a derisory 1% pay offer despite these frontline workers doing extra shifts and working flat out in dangerous conditions throughout a pandemic that continues to rage.

These strikes and overwhelming votes for strike action join the many others beyond Kellogg, John Deere and Kaiser Permanente.

Over 400 workers at the Heaven Hill distillery in Kentucky have been on strike for six weeks while 1,000 coalminers in Alabama have been out since April.

On October 1st, 450 steelworkers at Special Metals in West Virginia also walked out.

Alongside this massive strike wave, the biggest in the US for over 40 years, more than 2,000 Amazon warehouse workers in New York City are demanding a vote to unionise the company and fight for higher wages and safer working conditions and the right to collective bargaining.

What is clear is that the working class in the US along with UK and Europe are not prepared to be driven into the ground but instead are demonstrating their huge power.

At a time when American capitalism is crashing into recession and drowning under an eyewatering national debt of $28.1 trillion there is no possibility of concessions from the employers.

On the contrary, for the US capitalist class the answer to their crisis is to try to impose wage cutting contracts throughout the economy.

In the same way in Britain, the bosses’ answer to the capitalist crisis is to carry out a campaign of fire and rehire.

The working class has demonstrated that enough is enough and it will not passively accept having the capitalist crisis dumped on it to ensure the profits of the bosses.

While the leadership of the unions in the US and UK are desperately attempting to calm the situation and restrict the mass strike movement to seeking concessions, workers are more and more feeling their strength and demanding an end to a system that exploits them mercilessly.

The immediate issue confronting the working class throughout the world is the building of a new leadership in the trade unions, sections of the Fourth International, that will organise a political general strike and go forward to workers’ governments and socialism. The only way forward for workers in America and every country today is to fight for the victory of the world socialist revolution!