Meyerson on TAPWhy the Striking Autoworkers Need to Win Big. Anyone who understands the need for the United States to reduce its stratospheric levels of economic inequality and to give its workers a boost into the middle class has to be rooting for the United Auto Workers members on strike now at General Motors. Those workers sacrificed a good share of their incomes to help GM weather the 2008 financial collapse, as Mike Elk reported yesterday at prospect.org, and now that the company has record profits, totaling more than $30 billion during the past three years, their demands—to reopen factories whose work GM has offshored; to provide full pay, hours, and benefits to the workers whom GM has relegated to a second tier or to the status of temp—are more than just.
Perhaps even more important to the nation at large, though, a successful strike at GM would continue to signal the return of the most important income equalization tool in American history: the strike. Over the past 18 months, teachers, hotel workers, and telephone company workers have waged and won major strikes, after decades in which the strike had almost disappeared from the nation’s economic landscape. Low unemployment rates embolden workers, but there’s nothing like a string of successful strikes to embolden them more. (And all praise to the telecom workers’ union—the Communications Workers of America—for persisting in waging, and winning, strikes over the past decades when most other unions hadn’t done the work required to strike and win.)
When GM was the nation’s largest employer, and when unionization rates were so high that even non-union workers got raises so their employers could keep them from defecting to unionized firms, the UAW’s strikes at GM had far greater impact on the nation’s economy than today’s strike can have. America’s mid-20th-century middle-class majority was largely the creation of the more than 300 major strikes the nation experienced every year during the 1950s. We’re a long way from that level of broadly shared prosperity now, but one indispensable way to begin to re-create it is to roll the union on. Ergo: Go, UAW! ~ HAROLD MEYERSON
The opinions expressed here are those of members and allies of DSA North Star Caucus meant to educate, inspire discussion and encourage comradely debate.