happy autoworkers

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 10 06:33:46 PDT 1998

Michael Eisenscher:

>There are more than a few core industrial workers, who, like autoworkers,
>earn what would be classified by most as a thoroughly "middle class" or even
>"upper middle class" income. Here on the West Coast, members of the ILWU
>who operate the cranes that unload containers earn well over $100K, while
>their less skilled coworkers may earn from $50-80K or better.


Much thanks to Michael for a very informative essay. It solidifies a thought that I have been playing with for some months now. Perhaps one of the key elements in the radicalization of the American working class in years to come will be the dichotomy between its expectations of what a living wage should be and what American capitalism is prepared to offer. You have to realize that the American dream, reinforced by television commercials and politician's speeches, is out of the reach of most working people. A comfortable home, new automobile, etc., are the stuff of the 1950s and 60s, but will of necessity become harder and harder to attain in years to come. This accounts for the explosiveness of the construction workers demonstration in NYC. They are steeped in the memory of when NYC was a union town and want to return to this high-wage time of glory. The only problem is that American capitalism can only expand by cutting wages.

Instead of fretting about high wages, socialists and radicals should embrace the notion that $25 per hour should be the minimum wage. But we can't afford to pay that, the ruling class will cry. Let's open the books then and see how much money there is. The question of a living wage then becomes tied up with the question of competition, resources, leisure, etc. Ultimately they involve global politics and global solutions, which is the program of socialism. The Flint strike, despite its piss-poor leadership, does raise these questions in a very interesting way.

I am not sure what plans Doug has for archiving LBO-Talk, but it would be a damned shame if Michael's essay was not preserved for posterity. There has been some awfully valuable discussion on this list since it started in May, including the cab strike, race and class, etc. Perhaps it might make sense to package it as a journal in the way I am doing on the Marxism list. I find this format more useful than computer-generated archives.

Louis Proyect


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