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Vol. 72/No. 3      January 21, 2008

For a sliding scale of wages, hours
Gasoline prices in the United States are now more than double—$3.18 a gallon on average—what they were four years ago. Official inflation figures show grocery prices were up more than 4 percent in 2007 over the previous year, and even higher for items like milk and bread. Hikes in medical costs, rent, and other essentials are also gouging workers. Meanwhile, wages continue to stagnate.

At the same time, in December the official unemployment rate rose to 5 percent—and the actual figure is higher—largely due to layoffs in construction and manufacturing.

What can working people do in response to rising inflation and unemployment?

The candidates of the twin capitalist parties have their proposals. From Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to Republicans John McCain and Michael Huckabee, they offer a range of policies to “invest in U.S. manufacturing,” from tax measures to trade legislation, that are simply designed to increase the profits of U.S. employers—at the expense of working people at home and abroad.

Inflation and unemployment are endemic to the capitalist system. With the capitalist system in the early stages of a world financial crisis, one thing is certain: the bosses will continue to shift the burden of the crisis onto the backs of working people both in the United States and internationally.

In response, the Socialist Workers candidates are campaigning for a platform to defend the interests of working people. A key demand is for a sliding scale of wages and a sliding scale of hours that includes:

The labor movement needs to campaign to expose the real prices working people pay. Government inflation figures are rigged, grossly understating the prices of food, clothing, fuel, rent, and transportation. This month, nearly 50 million people who receive Social Security will get the smallest average cost-of-living increase in four years—barely $24 a month. This is a result of the “recalculation” of inflation figures introduced under the Clinton administration. Many cost-of-living adjustments in union contracts are based on these distorted figures, further lowering the standard of living of millions.

The labor movement should also demand that the bosses open their books. Unions can then expose the truth behind contrived shortages, the collusion between the employers and government agencies, and how bosses and their cronies make out like bandits on price hikes and "labor cost-cutting."

In addition to a shorter workweek, a massive public works program is needed to build and repair much-needed hospitals, schools, public housing, roads and bridges, and other infrastructure. Millions could be put to work at union-scale wages on such projects, improving social conditions for all working people.

These are demands around which a labor party, based on a fighting union movement, could mobilize the power of the working class, contesting in the political arena against the Democrats, Republicans, and all other capitalist parties.

That's what the Socialist Workers candidates urge working people and youth to join in campaigning for today.
Related articles:
SWP candidates offer working-class proposals
Socialists call for a fighting labor party, independent of capitalist 2-party system
U.S. elections highlight worries over economy, war
SWP candidate across the United States  
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