World Crisis Blowing US Trade Union Leaders Apart


THE American workers are facing major problems, caused by the deepening crisis of the world capitalist system.

Among these problems are the export of millions of US workers’ jobs by the employers, and the growth of long term unemployment. This is at the same time as productivity is being driven up at home, while wages are being cut and overtime is under attack by the Bush administration and the employers.

Another huge problem is the offensive of the employers to drive up workers’ contributions to the health insurance negotiated as part of union contracts, a life or death issue for workers and their families in a country where there is no National Health Service.

Meanwhile, companies like United Airlines have gone bankrupt and are seeking to simply rip up their pensions and health care obligations, while General Motors is planning mass sackings and unilaterally imposing huge increases in health care contributions – with their rivals Ford and Daimler-Chrysler preparing to follow their lead.

At the same time, the Bush administration is moving forward to privatise social security, and to privatise government workers, abolishing their trade union rights in the process, more body blows aimed at the US working class.

The export of millions of jobs under the banner of ‘globalisation’ and ‘free trade’ is the other side of the coin of the imperialist war to control the oil resources of Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The jobs being shipped out and the body bags being shipped back from Iraq are opening the eyes of millions of US workers to the importance of the international struggle of the working class against capitalism and imperialism.

All these revolutionising factors and the impact of the drive of the US workers to defend their gains are now exploding inside the AFL-CIO organisation and blowing apart its leaders, and its organisations, creating the conditions for the working class to push forward. The policy of the AFL-CIO trade union confederation is to accept what the big employers are willing to offer at home, and to support US foreign policy abroad. This is now completely unacceptable for millions of US workers.

Last Wednesday the leaders of five of the largest unions in the AFL-CIO – the Teamsters, UFCW, UNITE-HERE, the Laborers, and the SEIU – announced the formation of the ‘Change to Win Coalition’, a new alliance ‘devoted to creating a large-scale, coordinated campaign to rebuild the American labour movement’.

They added: ‘The world is nearly unrecognisable from what it was a generation ago. The stakes could not be higher. If the labour movement doesn’t adopt dramatic changes today to cope with the new economy it will find itself marginalised into oblivion. We come together today to prevent that.’

They continued: ‘Regardless of the agenda adopted in Chicago by the AFL-CIO convention, the Coalition will move forward with its reform programme after the Convention.’

The US is now on the brink of mass struggles of a type that have not been seen since the mass occupations of the 1930s and 40s and the emergence of the industrial trade unions.

There will have to be ‘dramatic changes’ in policy. Closures of plants and the export of jobs will have to be resisted with occupations of the plants concerned and with the demand that they be nationalised under workers’ control. There must be no acceptance of increases in health contributions or of different wage rates and conditions for old and new starters in the plants and factories.

The Bush privatisation policies must be fought industrially and politically.

That means breaking from the Democrats and developing a Labour Party as the class organisation of the working class and the urban and rural poor to fight for a socialist USA.

These are some of the dramatic changes that are required, changes that even the most progressive bureaucrats will resist.

To achieve these changes a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International must be built in the US to provide the conscious leadership to take these struggles forward to the organisation of the American socialist revolution.