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Vol. 80/No. 17      May 2, 2016


Fight for pensions for entire working class

From the Central States Teamsters to coal miners across Appalachia, workers are facing attempts by the bosses and their government to slash the pensions they counted on for retirement. The bosses at Verizon talk of “legacy” issues. That’s just a euphemism for their drive to cut pensions and health benefits — one of the reasons 39,000 workers there are now walking picket lines.

Cement and warehouse workers in Montreal and Teamster mechanics at United Airlines have also been fighting bosses’ attacks on pensions.

All workers need to support these struggles. The Socialist Workers Party stands shoulder to shoulder with these unionists, and with fast-food and other workers who are demanding $15 an hour and a union. Most low-paid workers have no pension or medical insurance and can’t survive on the paltry Social Security benefits they get when they retire.

Defending hard-fought gains is essential. At the same time, the attacks our class faces today illustrate why fighting for health care and pensions company by company is a dead-end in the long run. Even at the most profitable companies, what you think is a safe “nest egg” can easily go up in smoke, when pension funds are “invested” in supposedly sure stocks, bonds and other financial schemes and then the bubble bursts.

During the world capitalist economic expansion from the late 1940s through the early 1970s, “good times made it possible for workers to win modest but real wage increases and ‘fringe benefits’ without increasing conflicts with the employers,” Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, notes in The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Working-Class Politics and the Trade Unions. The union officialdom largely “ignored the needs of unorganized workers … as well as the political fight for health care and other social programs for the entire working class.”

A 1985 SWP resolution in the same book points to “the need for the labor movement to fight for social rights such as health care and adequate pensions for all working people. These should be government-financed on a nationwide scale, not tied to the bosses’ profits on an industry-by-industry basis. The unions should take the lead in resisting the continual drive by the government and employers to make meeting these life-or-death needs the responsibility of individuals and their families.”

A labor party based on the unions, organizing independently of the bosses’ parties, would join the fight for government-funded social security to safeguard the entire working class by protecting its most vulnerable members. It would point the way forward to ending the rule of a handful of capitalist families and establishing a workers and farmers government, which would reach out to working people all over the world.
Related articles:
Verizon strikers: Time to say no to concessions!
Stand in solidarity with 40,000 strikers
Teamsters hold DC rally to demand halt to pension cuts
On the Picket Line
Protests across country demand $15/hour and union
Labor actions rise in China as bosses slash jobs, wages
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