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Vol. 75/No. 15      April 18, 2011

Benefits for our class vs. ‘fringes’ for a few

Below is an excerpt from The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Working-Class Politics and the Trade Unions by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. The book is among four being offered at special discount with subscriptions to the Militant this spring. The selection is taken from a report by Barnes on “Leading the Party into Industry,” adopted by the SWP National Committee in February 1978. Copyright © 2002 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

When we talk about the social and political responsibilities of labor we explain the need to combat the ruling-class policy of imposing on the individual family the responsibility for social services that should be taken care of by society—the care of the young, the elderly, the sick and disabled.

But that’s not the only way capitalism works. The employers also try to impose upon the individual workers responsibilities that should be met by society. And more and more they try to establish that their responsibilities will be met only according to the profitability of each worker’s own boss. I leave aside the most grotesque single examples such as the public-employee unions’ officials sinking massive amounts of pension funds into city bonds in New York City.

But more and more so-called general fringe benefits—pensions, health-care plans, supplemental unemployment benefits—all become contingent on the continuing profits of the boss you work for. We see this growing in industries like coal, steel, and auto.

These benefits are not won for the class as a whole, or even a section of the class… . These fringes are good in good times—for workers who have them—because they’re a substantial addition to everything else industrial workers can count on.

But when the squeeze comes, this all begins to fall apart. Your pension funds are threatened. Your health-care plans are dismantled. The supplemental unemployment benefits run out. And the squeeze is on.
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Miners back Wisconsin unions
Rallies answer union-busting across U.S.
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