(23 May 2017) – There was a large and very spirited rally of thousands of union workers from across the Midwest held in Chicago today in support of the #FightFor15 movement. Unions from Kansas City, Cleveland, and Detroit all showed up in large numbers; but there was one group conspicuously missing: the unions from Chicago itself! They were M.I.A. And not one Chicago politician or Chicago AFL-CIO union piecard dared to mount the speakers’ platform at the end of the rally, either. Frankly, we don’t think anyone missed them; but their absence was an insult to the thousands of mostly black (and Hispanic) workers from throughout the Midwest who spent hours on buses traveling to Chicago to attend the rally, who probably expected to be welcomed by their union sisters and brothers here in Chicago. Sadly, almost certainly due to Chicago Democratic Party machinations, it was not going to happen. The so-called “friends of labor” Democrats are scared to death of any manifestation of class solidarity among workers from across the region; and they’ll do anything to prevent “their” Chicago unions from meeting union militants from other Democratic Party-controlled cities in the Midwest. To the Democrats, union solidarity spells “big trouble down the line.”
The rally was directed by the Democrats leading the AFL-CIO unions that participated (particularly the Service Employees Industrial Union (SEIU); the main targets of their anger were (of course) Donald Trump and the McDonald’s Corporation, which has been fighting against #FightFor15 ever since the campaign was launched. But for whatever reason the Democratic Party-controlled Chicago unions were complete no-shows at the march and on the podium at the end of the rally. We attended the march and rally and did not see a single Chicago union banner! What a disgrace!
Our very modest abilities to intervene politically in the rally were limited by our organization’s small size; our slogans were: “Dump the Democrats and Build A Workers Party” and “$15 an HR? NOT ENOUGH! We Need a $25 an HR Min. Wage in Chicago!”
Why “dump the Democrats”? Because the Democrats are one of the two political parties owned and operated by the US big business interests – the capitalist class – who create their wealth by robbing workers of the product of workers’ labor. In the capitalist system, all profits are squeezed from the labor of the workers; the capitalists are always trying to devise new ways to increase their profits by cutting wages and benefits and by eliminating as many workers as possible and making the remaining workers do their own jobs as well as the jobs of those who were fired.
The Democratic Party politicians are essentially hired directly by the capitalists through campaign contributions to those politicians. All Democratic Party politicians get the majority of their campaign funding from the capitalist bosses. This means that the loyalty of the Democratic party politicians – just like the Republican politicians – it to the capitalist class, not the working class. The Democrats are the bought-and-paid-for representatives of the capitalist class just as the Republican Party politicians are.
As workers, members of the working class, we can not expect to have our interests represented by politicians who are in the pay of the capitalists who exploit us! That is why we place so much importance on the slogan “build a workers party”. In order for the workers to have honest political representation at city hall, the state house, and in Congress, we have to create workers parties of, by and for the working class that are completely independent of the capitalist class in every way. If we want to have control of the direction taken by local, state and national government, we must build workers parties based on the trade union membership and fully funded by the workers through donations and party dues payments (just like union dues). The US working class is 175 million strong; if each worker gave just one dollar a month to an independent workers party, we’d have enough money to run candidates for every local, state and national representative body and soon WE would be deciding what legislation gets passed and what legislation gets dumped in the trash where it belongs! Until the working class builds its own fully independent workers parties, working people will continue to have to beg the bought-and-paid-for politicians owned by our class enemies – the capitalists – to toss us a few crumbs every once in a while!
That is why we have created the Independent Workers Party; we want to be YOUR party. It is 100% independent of the capitalist class and is fully funded by workers. As it grows, it will train its members in working-class history and prepare rank-and-file workers to become the honest political leaders the working class desperately needs in order to fight for workers’ rights until we become the majority party in the US and then we can give the entire capitalist system the funeral it has deserved for more than a century and create a revolutionary socialist workers government! A workers government would pass a modern workers Constitution and Bill of Rights that would “outlaw” racism, sexism, homelessness, poverty and war. Food, clothing, housing, education and medical care would become permanent “inalienable rights”. No one could ever be evicted from their home for inability to pay the rent; no one could be denied medical treatment or food because they couldn’t afford it. College education would be free. Workers who lost their jobs would get 100% of their pay as unemployment benefits until they got back to work. Daycare services would be free and available 24/7/365. This is what 21st century socialism looks like!
Why do we say “$15 an HR? NOT ENOUGH”? Because $15/hr is not enough money to live on in any major US city! Economists say that in order for anyone to be making enough money to live comfortably, their rent should not be more than roughly 1/3 of their monthly take-home pay. In Chicago, a decent 3-bedroom apartment (for a family with 2 kids) in one of the better neighborhoods costs $1500/mo or more (not including utilities!). This means that a worker needs to make approximately $4500/mo or $1125/wk., which amounts to approximately $28.25 an hour! So how can anyone pretend that a $15 minimum wage is going to be anywhere near enough to provide a decent standard of living for a person supporting a spouse and 2 kids?
A few years ago, a group of researchers calculated the minimum wages necessary for workers to live decently in every state in the US. Here are their results:
With the rate of inflation running at around 2% a year, real wages are steadily declining unless workers receive at least the same percentage in a pay raise. We say that not only is $15/hr not enough for Chicago; but unless the minimum wage is backed up by a full cost-of-living increase indexed to inflation annually, any increase in the minimum wage will quickly be eroded as inflation eats away at the new wage.
The goal of the Democrats and Republicans, working together to represent the best interests of the capitalists who paid them to run for office, is to take their sweeeet time before they raise the minimum wage. By the time they finally pass the $15 minwage for the country (if they ever do that) it have depreciated so much that it will not be enough to sustain a small family at all. When the greedheads like McDonald’s Corporation claim that workers are being “too greedy” asking for $15/hr, they are consciously lying. They know that in fact $15/hr is easily doable – which is why the Democratic Party-affiliated #FightFor15 organization is supporting the inadequate demand of a mere $15/hr. But they intend to draw out the implementation of this badly needed minimum wage increase for as long as they can, so their wealthy benefactors can rake in their megaprofits for as long as possible before the minwage increase hits them in their pockets!
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry gave a rousing speech in which she denounced McDonalds’ corporate greed and pledged that her union, at least, would stand up to defend US workers and also staunchly defend immigrant and refugee rights. Immigrant and refugee rights are indeed under severe attack from the Trump administration – just as they were under the Obama administration. This too proves that the differences between the Democrats and Republicans are far outweighed by the similarities. In the final analysis, the Democrats and Republicans are two sides of the same capitalist coin. Workers must never allow our enemies in the capitalist class (and their government stooges) to divide the working class aginst itself. We say: “Full citizenship rights for all immigrants and refugees – NOW!” Immigrants and refugees are the allies of the US working class, not our enemies. Our enemies are the in the US capitalist class which exploits all workers and attempts to create divisions amongst workers in every way they can: along religious, ethnic, sexual and every other line. Unions are our first line of defense against this crap. “An injury to one is an injury to all! Workers of the World, Unite!”
— Independent Workers Party – Chicago