COMMENTARY:

If two big things could happen this fall we’d have a shot at re-creating the middle class society workers enjoyed in the past.

If those two things don’t happen we stand a chance of looking more and more like an impoverished developing country, with a small wealthy elite ruling over homeless, hungry millions.

The two wishes I will make before I cut into the Labor Day cake at a party some friends will be throwing are: (1) That the current American health care system be dismantled and replaced with one that works and (2) That U.S. labor law be replaced with a law that works for workers.

It doesn’t take much effort to figure out why labor law must be overhauled. Workers need more power at the bargaining table, more weight to equalize the pressure on their fat cat bosses so they can get a bigger share of the wealth they create.

During the recent 30 year period of domination of our politics by the ultra-right a huge share of all the wealth and income of America went to those at the very top. The gap between rich and poor is bigger than at any time since 1929.

The gap became that wide because of corporate greed supported by a hostile Republican mentality in government – and because the corporations were able to weaken the power of workers to fight for themselves.

That big gap won’t be closed overnight even if the Employee Free Choice Act is passed. It will gradually close, however, once the legislation is passed because a much larger percentage of the working class will be able to organize for justice on the job. As Labor Editor of the Peoples World, however, I know that permanent correction of that imbalance will happen only when we rid ourselves altogether of the corporate criminals. That will require total revision of the exploitative system of which these criminals are a part and parcel.

On the other wish, the one regarding health care:

Health care now swallows one sixth of all goods and services produced in this great country. The insurance companies, their loyal GOP servants, and some Democrats don’t want that to change. But if it doesn’t change the share will grow to one fifth by 2020 and then to one third and then up from there. The people, the government, everyone will be broke.

How can that be justified? It’s not like any of that money, those goods and those services that are being swallowed are going to the people, the patients, or even to the clinics, the doctors, the hospitals or the nurses. It all goes to the insurance companies, to their profits, their dividends, their managers, their CEO’s, their denial-of-care departments, their paperwork, their overhead and their administrative costs. In return they provide none of the services, none of the health care needed by the people. It’s hard to even imagine a more useless bunch of parasites.

The only thing health insurance companies do – and they do it well – is actively transfer massive amounts of wealth from hard-working men and women into the pockets of the corporations. They are one of the main reasons the income gap has grown as wide as it has.

When you combine the power the health insurance companies have to pull off this transfer of wealth with the weaker power of workers you have an America headed in the direction of two societies, separate and unequal, sharply divided along class lines.

Their America is an America where a small band of corporate criminals, among them health insurance giants, bankers, brokers, hedge fund managers and Wal-Mart owners, sit at the top of the heap.

Their America is an America where the bottom of the heap is us in our millions, earning poverty level wages or less and paying, out of those wages, for the “privilege” of “health care” that they see fit to dispense.

This is where the wishing stops.

To avoid this scenario we must mobilize and organize and do it now. The choice this Labor Day is clear.

Failure to level the playing field between bosses and workers in labor relations and failure to radically curb the power of the insurance giants could very well leave our children vulnerable to shorter, crueler and meaner lives.

On the other hand, victory in these two struggles will put us on course for building a society where the working class and its children reclaim what is their ultimate right – the right to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

 

 

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CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is editor in chief at Peoplesworld.org. He started as labor editor of the People's World in May, 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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