Sunday, February 21, 2016

War on the public sector will hit people of color and women harder.

Check the inspection expiration date
by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I was thinking about Hilary Clinton and Sanders and how they are all for the people now. I mean the working class people.  Hilary has been up in Flint and both her and the Bern are in South Carolina trying to win the black vote. I think black folks are about 23% of the South Carolina voters but, as Jesse Jackson mentioned today, most of the poor people in South Carolina are white. This makes sense as most of the poor people in the US are white as there are a lot more whites than blacks.

So I was thinking about the onslaught on the public sector that has intensified not only since the Great Recession but also since the UAW leadership, so deeply entwined in the deathly embrace of the auto bosses and their ideological cheerleaders, has helped turn the once mighty UAW in to not much more than an appendage of the machine. UAW members have suffered for it as have all workers. Next is the public sector. We have it too good as Trump says.

The last bastion of trade unionism is the public sector. If it were not for the public sector, which is around 30% to 35% organized, there would be less than 7% of US workers in unions.  As it is there's around 12% compared to 35% after the AFL and CIO merged in 1954.

I am retired from the public sector. The austerity agenda of the bosses' includes crushing the public sector unions and privatizing public services and the workers in them.  Our workplaces are more humane. Our benefits and wages are better generally, and so in general are our retirement packages. Mine is a defined benefit system. This type o retirement is slowly being eliminated by the bosses in an effort to drive us all in to the insecurity of the market. This has been made easier by the capitulation of the trade union hierarchy behind the failed Team Concept philosophy. We have traditionally had more security and the private sector bosses don't like that; it sets a bad precedence. 

The way I see it is that in the aftermath of the heroic wars black youth fought against Jim Crow and the racist Southern regime, a war that we refer to as the Civil Rights Movement, major gains were made in the field of employment and these gains were in the public sector. This is my understanding from my own experiences and it would make more sense. The private sector would have been more resistant and harder for workers to overcome their racist practices. I have not researched this I'm just blogging here.  But I believe this is the case.

As they continue to savage the public sector, not only jobs but services, people of color and women will be the worst hit.  Over the past 40 years of my work-life, white workers have also seen their living standards decline. Does anyone really believe they will eliminate racism and poverty among people of color as white workers are losing ground? I don't think so. And we know that Many of the social gains made during the New Deal excluded people of color, Latinos and black people. The Social Security Act of 1935 didn't cover agricultural and domestic workers who were overwhelmingly black Americans and other people of color and about half of the workers in the US economy at the time.*  All the promises that Clinton and Sanders are making with regard to racism jobs, etc, in order to win votes, cannot be realized through their political party or more accurately, under capitalism. Racism cannot be eliminated under capitalism, Malcolm X said so much when he wrote that "You can't have capitalism without racism".  This doesn't mean some gains might appear although it is likely the next president will be in office during another major economic crisis, perhaps worse than 20007-9. But in the main, these candidates will fail workers and the poor yet again.

But what prompted me to write today was an elevator visit this afternoon. I was on a jury trial where a man sued two elevator companies. He said the elevator was faulty and it caused him to fall and injure himself. One company constructed the elevator and the other company installed the computer stuff. It was fascinating and whenever I get in to an elevator I always look at the paperwork that is normally stuck on the wall or the elevator door. It has the date it was inspected and the date the inspection expires.

The picture above was the one I was in today. For those of you in the SF Bay Area it is an elevator at the Lake Merritt BART station.  You can see that the expiration date is almost a year old. The elevator as due for inspection on March 3rd 2015, that was a year to the day since the last inspection.

Now perhaps the city will have all sorts of reasons why it hasn't been inspected in a year. But I think the reason is the same as why bridges collapse, water gets poisoned and gas leaks in to the atmosphere and levees don't hold back water. It is due to the savaging of the public sector by the US ruling class and their political parties and neither Clinton nor Sanders will stop this.  If an elevator drops 15 stories and 12 people get crushed to death then we'll see what we see all the time, the finger pointing, the Senate hearings, the calls for reform blah blah blah. OSHA is a toothless safety net and don't forget the US Chamber of Commerce, that legalized gang more powerful than all the urban gangs put together opposed OSHA as lame is it is. 

What secures us on the job and in the use of social services is organization. Strong rank and file controlled unions in the workplace, linked with equally strong organizations in our communities.

We need to expand the public sector. I have been attacked for my pension as the propaganda against us is as great or greater than the propaganda against Muslims. But everyone should have decent pensions. Everyone should have a job. Everyone should be able to feed their children, get their teeth fixed, see a doctor on demand.  We can afford it. If the private sector worked they'd be building sports stadiums instead of having the taxpayer do it. Great public sector jobs and services is spending money wisely. It is simply returning to us a portion of the wealth our labor creates in the form of services.

Check that elevator next time.

* There is a great deal of controversy about this action and the motives behind it.  Regardless of that, it was a conscious decision to eliminate the poorest and least organized I would say and the vast majority of these workers were people of color. That they were excluded is an example of institutional racism no matter what the motives of individuals were.

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