Heading Toward Labor Day 2004
by Bill Onasch
I plan to have a good time on Labor Day. I’ll be at the KC Labor Party Labor Day Picnic, in the company of friends and comrades. We will listen to speeches and music, consume good food and beverage, maybe even play some games. We will celebrate our solidarity and renew our optimism for the future of the working class.
Good thing we’re hopeful about our day coming because there is little joy in our present situation.
The cloud of war darkens all of our lives. This is the third Labor Day since the invasion of Afghanistan, the second since the invasion of Iraq. The peoples of those countries are worse off than ever under American occupation, GIs continue to die in those far off lands, tens of billions of tax dollars squandered—and the end is not yet in sight.
Our unions are in crisis. Our numbers are shrinking. Too many strikes are being lost. Fear of defeat has led many to make big concessions to the boss rather than fighting back.
This decline in union power has led to sinking living standards, and anxiety about job security, for the entire working class.
Access to health care is out of reach for millions, our pensions threatened, our kids priced out of college education. And our environment is being wrecked.
These problems are well known. Not so widely understood is what, if anything, can be done about them. Right now, listening to the leaders of the labor, peace, feminist, civil rights, and environmental movements, you would conclude only one thing is necessary for our salvation–defeating Bush in November. Everything–and I do mean everything–is now subordinated to that single-minded goal.
But in less than three months the election will be history. Regardless of the winner the same challenges will be with us. Perhaps a Kerry White House would be a tad less mean spirited but there can be no doubt that the same basic ruling class policies would continue on his watch.
There’s no body coming to rescue us. No politician, no preacher, no talking head will lead us to redemption. We have to figure out our own solutions to these challenges. And once we have decided what to do we must also organize to act.
We are going to take the occasion of Labor Day to step back from the daily grind to assess where the movement as a whole is, and where we need to go.
kclabor.org webmaster Bill Onasch is a retired Kansas City ATA bus driver, a member, and former Vice-President, of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1287. Now available full time for labor movement activity, Onasch serves on the national Steering Committee of US Labor Against the War and represents Midwest chapters on the Interim National Council of the Labor Party. While residing in Minnesota in the 1970-80s, he was active in the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers (UE), serving stints as Shop Chairman at Litton Microwave, President of UE Local 1139, and a member of UE District Council 11 Executive Board. In 1980 he worked on a successful UE organizing campaign at a Litton runaway plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. A long time labor journalist, Onasch is a founding member of the editorial board of Labor Standard.
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