Federal Government Squeezes Workers, Bloats Pentagon by Carl Lewis + May Day: Struggle For A Mass Strike!

Mural of workers holding placards

Image by Kheel Center via Flickr

Dandelion Salad

by Carl Lewis
Workers World
March 23, 2017

A recent hiring freeze for federal employees is one of a barrage of anti-worker laws and executive orders recently put forth by the Trump administration. These serve as a cover-up for gutting the people’s social safety net, on the way to implementing brutal capitalist austerity.

Existing legal “safety net” protections have been woven and won through decades of struggle by oppressed communities and workers’ organizing. These are the victories under attack when Trump’s white-supremacist “special adviser” Steve Bannon boasts in coded language that his plan is the “deconstruction of the administrative state.”

Right now, federal workers and the unions representing them are being hit on three fronts: wages and hiring are being frozen, worker due-process rights are being destroyed, and labor union strength is being weakened. One in five federal workers are Black (opm.gov), in a sector that has historically provided them with job security and growth.

Particularly hard hit are both Maryland and Virginia, home to approximately 300,000 federal workers in the Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense. President Trump’s proposed $54 billion to the DOD will not trickle down nor benefit civilian employees who work there. The money will only increase the profits and power of the military-industrial complex and the promotion of imperialist wars and invasions in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

The Department of Veteran Affairs already needs 45,000 new workers due to the injuries of soldiers who have served as cannon fodder for capitalism in recent wars. The hiring freeze hurts workers and the injured vets.

Federal worker unions are under direct attack by the administration’s proposal to do away with “official time.” That is the time a union representative uses to represent workers in grievances, negotiate contracts or address issues with management. This union work gets done on employer time with no loss of pay for the representative.

Now, to add insult to the administration’s injury, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.) has introduced a bill to penalize union representatives by not counting “official time” toward the representative’s retirement or pension. (Washington Post, March 8)

A further attack on VA workers is the proposed VA Accountability First Act of 2017. This would gut worker protection by lowering the burden of proof an employer must provide for a termination and eliminate the “just cause” factor, to be replaced with “just because!” In addition, the proposed law would drastically limit the amount of time a federal-sector union is given to appeal worker discipline, suspension or termination notices.

The attacks on federal workers are part of a larger assault on workers and oppressed people as a whole. Facing cutbacks are vital social services like Meals on Wheels for seniors lacking full mobility and environmental protections that prevent corporations from increasing profits by endangering people with water and air pollution. Housing in poor and oppressed communities is being cut back or “left up to the states to decide” — to discriminate.

It will take more than letters to Congress to oppose these draconian measures. It will take street heat and mass protests. A good start would be a massive general strike on May Day!

Articles copyright 1995-2017 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.


May Day: Struggle for a mass strike!

Workers World
March 14, 2017

More than a dozen calls have been issued for a general strike in the U.S. on May 1, International Workers Day. These have come from a wide range of organizations of migrant workers, women, prisoners, socialist revolutionaries and others.

Big media is sending up flares of alarm by covering May 1 as a “story.” Big business itself is starting to worry, while broadcasting strategies on how to “neutralize” a rising of workers and oppressed power on May Day.

Since Trump’s inauguration, there have been two national strike days involving thousands. There was the Day Without an Immigrant on Feb. 16 and the Day Without a Woman on March 8. Other local strike actions are multiplying, like the New York Taxi Workers Alliance’s refusal to pick up airport passengers in a show of solidarity with protests of the anti-Muslim travel ban.

There has been some support in labor unions for workers “shutting it down.” For instance, SEIU United Service Workers West, representing over 40,000 California workers, said in a statement: “It’s time to stand up as a people against fascism and autocratic leadership.”

A general strike, as traditionally called by organized labor unions, is a flexing of working-class power against capital and the bosses. Such a strike demonstrates powerful class consciousness that there is an “all of us” stretching far beyond a local.

Working and oppressed people right now know that Trump & Company are trying to smash the working class into pieces, to wreck our solidarity, to split us along lines of oppression. The ruling class is trying to make us fight each other instead of capitalism and imperialism.

A mass May Day strike could be not just unionized workers, but all of us being targeted — people of color, migrants and immigrants, temp and low-wage workers, unemployed and underemployed, LGBTQ+ people, prisoners, women working inside and outside the home, young people and students, people with disabilities who are working or want to and are denied that chance, people who are losing health care, environmental protection and so much more.

A mass strike of all workers and oppressed people would militantly and directly counter the capitalist war being waged against us through racist, anti-worker, woman-hating nationalism and imperialism.

A call by the unions for a mass or general strike would assert solidarity of organized labor with the entirety of working-class and oppressed people. Such a call should include protection for those who risk themselves and their jobs by participating in May Day actions.

On March 13, the San Francisco Labor Council “enthusiastically endorsed worker solidarity actions planned for May 1, International Workers Day … to protest the recent attacks on immigrants, health care, and the right to a voice at work.” The resolution called for “NO RETALIATION against any worker — union or non-union” who participates in that day.

We need more of this unity as a stepping-stone to turning May 1 into a mass strike against an ever more repressive state that showers money on the super-rich while targeting workers and the oppressed. And as a stepping-stone toward socialism and workers’ power!

And we need a global mass strike, because capitalism in its highly globalized form cannot be successfully fought city-by-city or region-by-region or country-by-country.

Can there be such a strike? As the great communist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg wrote about the mass strike:

“The rigid, mechanical-bureaucratic conception cannot conceive of the struggle save as the product of organization at a certain stage of its strength. On the contrary, the living, dialectical explanation makes the organization arise as a product of the struggle.” (tinyurl.com/hw4wlgl)

Let us struggle, and in that struggle let us build what we need to win.

Onward to the May Day strike!

Articles copyright 1995-2017 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

from the archives:

The Omission of Facts by Ralph Nader

“Making America Great” at Americans’ Expense by Ralph Nader + 2 Video Reports

Chris Hedges: The Rise of Trump

Abby Martin Exposes Steve Bannon

Poverty Will Kill More Of Us Than Terrorism

The Top Way In Which Military Spending Kills Is Not With Any Weapon by David Swanson + 2 Video Reports

8 thoughts on “Federal Government Squeezes Workers, Bloats Pentagon by Carl Lewis + May Day: Struggle For A Mass Strike!

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  7. The extreme imbalance of the US has infected and inflected the very terms we use, like private and public. What used to be ‘public’ ie the commons, has been so inverted, corrupted, appropriated…it now means privately-owned, policed and managed for ‘profit.’ The robber barons have triumphed. So, let them feel the wrath of those from whom they have stolen everything! Never mind draining the swamp, let them drown in their own ignorance.

    A mass strike, short of disabling vital systems like hospital intensive care units & emergency facilities, would be a brilliant manifestation of protest. Bring it on folks.

    These pompous wind-bags in the White House need a taste of wholesome reality, to temper & restrain their base vulgarity. The ‘Freudian’ obsession with violence has to be faced of by reasonable force of character. It doesn’t take a genius to boil an honest egg; but the elitist scare-mongering detritus, that pretends to have mastered all the best recipes, only knows how to break things, not make them.

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