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by ICP [Communist Left]
Sunday, Feb. 01, 2004 at 10:23 AM
email@example.com I.C.P. Editions ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ P.O.Box 52 ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ Liverpool L69 7AL ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Å“ United Kingdom
Solidarity with Striking and Locked-Out Grocery Workers- For a Class Union
For a fourth month now, over 70,000 grocery workers of Krogers Co. (Ralphs), Albertsons Inc., and Safeway Inc. (Vons and Pavilion) owned supermarkets, in Southern California and beyond, are on strike against cuts to their health care. Their perseverance and the support from the working class community are an inspiration for all workers. The massive struggle of the grocery workers is a key event that marks the beginning of what will surely be many other struggles in other industries.
Unfortunately, the UFCW leadership engaged in a series of questionable tactics behind the workers’ backs- ending picket lines at Ralphs stores in October, then at distribution centers in December, and then lowering demands at the bargaining table. None of this brought any concession from the companies. Furthermore, strike benefits were slashed in half, while top union officials continued to pull in six-figure salaries. Meanwhile, the leadership of the Teamsters union, whose transport and distribution workers had engaged in a bold solidarity strike with the grocery workers, decided that solidarity should be merely symbolic and halted the strike.
Now that the AFL-CIO has assumed control of the grocery strike, it promises to support it with nationwide protests and public relations stunts, but what is sorely needed is increased direct economic pressure- more strikes, and pickets that actually shut down stores - against the companies nationwide, who continue to turn a national profit despite the pressure on their west coast branches. Such a step is missing from the AFL-CIO’s plan of action, which has not even reversed the retreats by the UFCW and Teamster leadership. It seems doubtful therefore that the AFL-CIO bureaucrats will do much better than those of the UFCW.
This impotence is typical of unions which are really tools of the state and the bosses, and insults the dignity and fighting spirit of the workers, who are in the midst of a life or death struggle. The AFL-CIO unions allow workers to express their class anger in strikes but cut them off before they become a real threat to the company interest, which is always directly opposed to the workers’ interests. That’s why, to win, the grocery workers must:
- Never back down on their demand for health care, whether the union continues to support these demands or not. Refuse to end strikes or pickets until these demands are met.
- Spread the strikes nationwide. Wall Street has commanded that Safeway, Ralphs, and Albertsons ride out the strikes, assuring them victory in the end. But workers can break the will of the bosses with a national strike!
- Demand from the AFL-CIO a raise in strike benefits, and a deep cut to the outrageous salaries received by top union leaders..
- Fight back against scabs, whether the union sanctions such action or not, and ignore the legal codes of the state, which exists above all to protect the bosses’ profit. Make pickets real and not symbolic.
- Call for a resumption and extension of solidarity strikes by workers in distribution and other related industries.
Organize among themselves and with workers in other chains, and in other industries, a network capable of defending the workers’ actual interests against the bosses, and which is prepared to do so when the official unions show their true colors and surrender. Neither AFL-CIO leaders nor Democratic politicians can do anything for the working class- only the workers themselves can fight for workers’ interests.
Attacks on health care and wages aren’t exclusive to grocery workers; they’re being perpetrated against workers all over the country in the midst of an international economic crisis, a crisis inevitable in a capitalist economy. To successfully combat this bosses’ offensive, workers of all industries, including immigrant workers, and workers in other countries, must unite and reject the attempts by the ruling class to play workers in different sections against one another. In time, a class union must form which acts independently against the bosses, the state, and the official unions, and which defends the interests of the working class without compromise.
Solidarity with all grocery workers on strike, against the bosses and all their collaborators!
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