CPUSA: Labor movement experiencing a resurgence of militancy
There were many young workers at the CPUSA Convention and they discussed, among many other things, latest developments in the labor movement. | Taylor Dorrell/PW

Read more coverage of the Communist Party USA’s 32nd National Convention.

CHICAGO—The “resurgence of militant, class struggle unionism,” led by movements which installed new leaders in both the Teamsters and the Auto Workers, “is catalyzing reform” within organized labor, the CPUSA says.

And that in turn “indicates a major shift in the balance of forces between the working class and monopoly capital,” says the labor resolution the party’s convention in Chicago adopted on June 8.

Nevertheless, with union density at only 6% in the private sector, 33% in the public sector, and just over 10% overall, many people are suffering under capitalist domination.

“The pressure you may be feeling is the boot of capitalism pressing down on your chest,” Kooper Caraway, formerly of South Dakota and now from Connecticut, said during a panel discussion on the measure. The party’s goal “is to take that boot off the neck of the working class and put our foot on the neck of the capitalist class.”

Panelists and speakers from the floor described various ongoing labor struggles—the Auto Workers against the Detroit 3 and at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tenn.—and at places such as Starbucks and Amazon. Struggles among nurses and among low-paid workers were also described.

Many of the coming struggles, participants at the convention noted, will be in professions like health care, fast food, warehousing, and other super-exploitative occupations. But not all: An African-American woman from Houston described how the Republican Party has used school takeovers there and elsewhere to both harm students of color and hamstring unions.

New, younger workers involved

And many struggles, participants noted, will involve new, younger workers, a majority of them women, who have known much about corporate exploitation and oppression and are fed up with it and are unwilling to take it anymore. So they’re voting against bosses in two ways: Organizing into unions, or taking a hike from low-paying and often dead-end jobs.

Another way to grow the labor movement requires navigating  U.S. labor law. Organizing has been restricted ever since congressional Republicans emasculated the original 1935 National Labor Relations Act by turning it into an obstacle course for workers at the NLRB and through the courts via the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.

The Protect The Right To Organize (PRO) Act, labor’s #1 legislative priority, would remove almost all obstacles Congress and courts have erected to benefit the corporate class. That class has also funded Republican opposition in the Senate which stopped the PRO Act in its tracks.

Those groups include farm workers, who were excluded on racial grounds—then as now most were Spanish-speaking—in 1935, and domestic workers, who were mostly Black women and excluded from the law for the same racist reason, to appease Southern segregationist senators.

“On farms, we’ve got young children breaking their backs working in the fields” starting at sunrise, Caraway said. “Then they go to school, then back to the fields” with only a few hours to spare to do their homework. “We have the moral obligation to go where people are hurting.

“Why should we follow laws that exploit our people and protect the capitalist state?”

Education and pressure can pay off. A participant from Atlanta said pressure—including strikes—by Waffle House workers in the Carolinas and Georgia, members of the Union of Southern Service Workers, an SEIU affiliate, forced company concessions.

“They told us we couldn’t beat a corporation like Waffle House,” an Atlanta Waffle House worker said on June 8. “They told us we couldn’t organize in the South, with its history of exploiting Black and brown workers. They were wrong: When we come together, united, taking collective action, we can shift the balance of power.”

They got $3 an-hour raises, increases in their base tipped wages and seniority raises. But they’ll keep fighting for the whole package, Erica promised the Chicago convention.

White-collar workers can be oppressed, too.  A Houston teacher told delegates that 93 of the 107 school districts which the Lone Star State’s schools chief has taken over—including the Houston Independent School District—have majorities of “low-income students who are Black or brown.”

That’s no coincidence. The takeover law is a favorite of white right-wing Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and the white Republican majority in the heavily gerrymandered legislature of the nation’s second most populous state.

“Most of those districts fail because the community doesn’t have a voice” in running them, Mary said. Similar Republican takeovers occurred in Philadelphia—though a later Democratic governor revoked it–and New Orleans. There the entire city school system has been privatized via so-called charter schools.

While panelists didn’t mention it, the conversion to charters literally destroyed the Teachers’ (AFT) New Orleans local, the largest in the South. It sued to overturn the privatization and get teachers’ jobs back, but lost in federal courts, all during the Republican George W. Bush administration.

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Press Associates
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Press Associates Inc. (PAI), is a union news service in Washington D.C. Mark Gruenberg is the editor.