SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA, February 17 — PLP members joined 500 workers and students in a march and rally to support the 200 undocumented workers and families fired by Pacific Steel Casting (PSC) in Berkeley, California.
We distributed a leaflet and CHALLENGES, focusing on racism in capitalism as a labor policy. Many gave thumbs up to our poster: “A world without Borders is a Communist World” (Un Mundo sin Fronteras es un mundo Communista).
We are following up on contacts among these workers and some of the younger activists on the march, which included NGO’s, community organizations, churches and Occupy Oakland. There was no official presence from the labor movement.
Using CHALLENGE and actions in our various mass organizations, we’re aiming to make May Day truly a march to unite the international working class and the many individual struggles in this area.
Workers at Pacific Steel Foundry, members of Glaziers, Molders and Plasterers Union Local 164B had a 3-day strike last March against a company-threatened 10% pay cut plus an increase in the cost of health benefits.
Later, the workers filed a $30 million class action lawsuit against Pacific Steel for failure to provide rest and meal breaks. By December, ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement) had conducted “silent raids” which required Pacific Steel to verify all workers’ Social Security status (I-9 audit raids).
The company then fired 200 workers (a third of the workforce). Most had 5 to 20 years seniority. Now their pension benefits are “in question” even though they paid into the union pension fund for years. Many have citizen children, pay taxes and own homes. One fired worker, 14-year veteran Jesús Navarro, was denied a kidney transplant by UC Medical Center here due to his undocumented status. After huge protest and outrage, UCSF medical center is now negotiating a transplant.
Bosses Profit, Union Misleaders Collaborate
While the steel industry “off-shored,” these workers have produced huge profits over the years for this “family-owned company.” It is the 4th largest such plant left in the U.S. Current wages, $11-$19\hr, used to be substandard for the steel industry up to the 1980’s. Union leaders negotiated these low wages, with the justification of “making the company productive” and “keeping the jobs here.”
Pacific Steel has now rehired about 200 workers, presumably at the lowered $11\hr starting wage. Both the company and the union leaders (including Vice-President Ignacio De La Fuente who is also president of the Oakland City Council) say their hands are tied by “Federal Policy” and the law.
Those fired have formed a rank-and-file Workers Committee for Mutual Support. The official union leadership has abandoned them but they are reaching out through mass leafleting in mainly Spanish-speaking communities and social justice organizations.
Racist War on Workers
“If, through enforcement, a large fraction of illegal immigrants returned to their home countries, there would seem to be an ample supply of idle American workers to replace them, particularly workers who have relatively little education.” (Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), think tank on immigration policy)
The 200 replacement workers (mainly Latino and black) Pacific Steel has hired — U.S.-born or “legal” residents — are the “ample supply” mentioned above which unemployment has forced into these “substandard conditions.”
With Obama’s Secure Communities program, deportations have reached record numbers, 300 000 annually since 2009, almost double that of George Bush. ICE “silent raids” (I-9 audits) have focused on companies with unionized workers.
These are parts of the racist, anti-immigrant policy. This is how fascism operates, as a virtual gun to the heads of these workers.
The Communist Alternative
“We want to feel proud that working our jobs means we are contributing to the well-being of the human race and to ourselves.” This is Progressive Labor Party’s view of a future communist society. We organize to fight for a better life today while struggling long-range for communist revolution.
We learned from the successes and failures of communists in the Soviet Union and China as they attempted to build new societies. While those communists abolished private profit, they still maintained a capitalist mode of production: production for buying and selling in the market, wages and wage inequality for workers.
They became a ruling party that controlled and distributed what the working class produced, turning it into state capitalism, the socialist economic model. This produced a return to capitalism.
Our goal is REAL communism, with a mass communist party, with production for need and abolition of the wage system: from each according to commitment and ability, to each according to their need. When the international working class wins and holds control over all of society’s economic, political and cultural institutions, it will unleash a creative power that will propel the human race to its highest accomplishments in all fields of endeavor. This is workers’ power.
Government Policies: Legalized Racism to Increase Profits
• Chain gang and Jim Crow laws in the South from 1880-1920’s; the anti-loitering laws of those years are equivalent to the nonviolent “drug arrests” and deportation policies of today. Both result in racist jailing.
• Workers from Mexico were “repatriated” (deported) in the 1930’s and re-imported in the 1940’s to replace workers drafted in World War II.
• Workers of Japanese ancestry were interned when World War II began. Their property and jobs were stolen. They were replaced by Latino, black and dust-bowl refugees (often white) to perform farm labor.
• The vast prison population today, disproportionately comprising black and Latino workers, provides profits from free or below-minimum-wage labor for U.S. corporations. Those on probation increase the ranks of the desperate unemployed.
• The present destruction of jobs in the public sector (transit and schools) disproportionately hurts black workers because 1 of 5 employed black workers have jobs in the public sector.
As Karl Marx pointed out, “the reserve army of labor” is built into capitalism. It condemns millions to misery and helps suppress the wages of those who have jobs.