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November 2004 • Vol 4, No. 10 •

The War Against Workers

By Mumia Abu-Jamal

Mumia Abu-Jamal, a prison journalist whose case has become a symbol for national debates over the death penalty and the judicial system, was on death row for almost 20 years after being found guilty of murdering police Officer Daniel Faulkner early in the morning of December 9, 1981. His sentence of death was overturned by a federal district judge on December 18, 2001, and a new sentencing hearing was ordered. Nevertheless, he is still convicted and has been unsuccessful in seeking a new trial.

Mumia’s message of solidarity with the “Million Worker March” was read to some 2000 workers and sympathizers present at the rally on October 17 in Washington D.C.

Almost all of us, from wherever we have come, have something vital in common: we are engaged in the world of work. Some of us are members of unions—as am I, a proud, card-carrying member of the National Writer’s Union, which is affiliated with the United Auto Workers.

Some of us, perhaps a majority, are not members of a union, and yet, as so-called “contingency workers”; as temps, as part-timers, as on-call workers, as workfare, as day laborers, as prison laborers, we are people who are workers, who add social good; and all of us are catching hell!

That’s because wherever there is a war against wages, that means a war against workers.

If we speak the truth, it doesn’t matter who wins the White House; workers are catching hell. That’s because the only choices before the American people are corporate choices; a thin narrow slice between two, quite similar “brokerage parties”, who sell their souls to the highest bidder.

Think of it this way; the last president supported by vast labor votes was William Jefferson Clinton. And how did Clinton reward labor support? By passing NAFTA, and opening the door to the global monster that is sucking the life-blood from most working families across the nation. The drastic loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs, and the resultant drop in wages, can be traced to the NAFTA bill.

That’s why a Million Worker March is now necessary; to break through the corporate gibble-gobble that now dominates the coming elections. Corporate candidates covered by corporate media for corporate interests. It’s no wonder it’s so slimy. It’s also no wonder that the word “workers” rarely, if ever, crosses the lips of the corporate candidates. It’s no wonder that the word “union” sounds like profanity when they mention it.

It is only the workers that can or will defend the interests of workers:

—Universal Healthcare for ALL people;

—A national living wage and livable retirement benefits;

—Bring about democracy to the shop floor, so that decisions about work are made by those who labor;

—Taxation that is progressive, on corporations and the wealthy, and relieves the burdens on the working class

and poor;

—An End to Wars waged for Corporate America,

like Iraq!;

—The immediate revocation of all anti-labor pacts, like NAFTA, FTAA, the WTO, and CAFTA!;

—The repeal of Taft-Hartley!;

—Repeal of the so-called “PATRIOT ACT”!;

These are but some of the demands motivating the Million Worker March, but it can’t be all of them. Workers actually build this society; it is they, and only they, who can re-build it.

This means a resurgence of the labor movement that is truly revolutionary—that does not “settle” for it’s slice, but changes the social order—completely. The union movement has a history of exclusion that worked against its own class interests; what if—what if all—of those people we mentioned a few moments ago—part-timers, on-calls, perma-temps, and yes—prison laborers—were actually unionized? It would add immeasurably, to the power of Labor, and add to the power of unions, generally, as a social force in the social order! In a phrase, this is win-win. Social transformation is possible, but only—only—with social organization!

When people organize, broadly, and as a social force, then you will hear those political whores speak the word “union” like they are speaking of a lover! Our esteemed ancestor, the great escaped captive, and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without demand.” He was right then; he is right now. Labor must unite to force this corrupt political system to yield. We, all of us, will be able to construct new realities, not merely demand them.

Or else, we will be choosing the same monkeys to sit over us, as they betray us, forever. That time must end. Thank You!

Mumia Abu Jamal is author of We Want Freedom: A life in the Black Panther Party (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2004)

—Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal






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