EDITORIAL: Legalized robbery

With one stroke of a pen a federal bankruptcy judge in Chicago legalized robbery. When Judge Eugene Wedoff allowed United Airlines to dump its responsibilities to pay its workers’ pensions, Wedoff gave the seal of approval to corporate thievery.

But this isn’t the first time. Numerous companies, including Bethlehem Steel with its $3.6 billion bailout, have been allowed through bankruptcy to dump their pension plans on the misnamed Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Originally this quasi-government agency was to guarantee workers get their pension when a company goes belly up. Now, under the Bush administration, the PBGC has facilitated the stealing of pension money from millions of workers.

The Bush administration, federal courts and corporations have worked hand-in-hand to pilfer the pensions of unionized employees. United Airlines, claiming bankruptcy, said the only way for the company to survive is to get rid of its pension responsibilities. Meanwhile, United pays its CEO’s pension.

Whether through bankruptcies or cost-cutting, corporations and the Bush administration are gutting workers’ pensions and putting workers’ retirement security in jeopardy. This breeds a race to the bottom for workers. Now other airline companies will claim that to stay “competitive” they have to dump their employees’ pensions.

The attack on retirement security is not limited to the airline or steel industry in the U.S. The Bush attack on Social Security is part of this same trend. It is the attack by “capital” on “labor” taking place in capitalist countries globally — dare we say, a “class war” being waged against working people.

One could argue that the whole concept of workers having a secure retirement runs counter to the basic laws of capitalism, which at its core is all about maximizing privately-held profit. Anything collectively held, publicly owned or for the social good is always at risk of becoming stolen or privatized at the altar of corporate greed.

What can be done? As Sly and the Family Stone once said, “Stand!” Let’s stand with the United workers in their fight for pension justice. Solidarity is the best tool for workers caught on the battlefield of the class war.