The front page of the Seattle Union Record at the beginning of the Seattle General Strike.

No Place Like Home

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With as much time as we spend there, work is often perceived as a “second home.” Corporations often go so far as to manufacture propaganda to convince their workers that the workplace really is a second home. This phenomenon serves to maintain worker tolerance of low wages and poor work conditions. After all, when there are problems at your actual home, you work harder to fix them, without any thought of reward. Don’t you? 

Similarly, maintaining the illusion of the workplace as a “home” solidifies the incentive for each worker to generate what is ultimately more profit and decadence for the capitalists at the helm costing them nothing and while stealing time, energy, and, often, personal health from workers. As such, the current worker shortage and stoppages are nothing short of revolutionary. Maintained worker withdrawals such as the one weaving through the service industry are the best non-violent path to social reform.  

This is why the idea of a general strike often works its way into social media discourse. Right now, we’re seeing an informal sector-based strike that, if nurtured and supported, could lead to a sector-wide strike and even that long-awaited general strike. Mutual aid and direct support of each other, coupled with education and solidarity are more critical than ever. Not just because we’re running out of time to course-correct away from extinction, but because we are at a critical juncture combined with an organic opportunity.  

Nurtured properly, this moment could be used to win certain reforms, such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, a $33 per hour minimum wage, and the Federal Job guarantee. However, the institutions and powers-that-be also recognize the power, the threat of this moment and are working to deflate it before it gains critical mass. Why else do you think the majority of mass media coverage is regarding the ‘worker shortage?’

What we have, is a moment where workers have had enough. The walkouts and other work protests causing businesses to close send a powerful message. Workers should always refuse to tolerate poor working conditions and even poorer wages. The good news is that there were remedies instituted during the New Deal era. While significantly weakened, they can still provide workers an easier path to better conditions and wages. 

The primary remedy to what we face is unionism. While many unions’ leadership have been co-opted by bourgeois liberals, effectively neutering their mass power, forming a union is still a good and necessary idea. The NLRB, or National Labor Relations Board, is the institutional means to fast track unionizing one’s workplace.  

From the NLRB’s website: 

“If a majority of workers wants to form a union, they can select a union in one of two ways: If at least 30% of workers sign cards or a petition saying they want a union, the NLRB will conduct an election. If a majority of those who vote choose the union, the NLRB will certify the union as your representative for collective bargaining. An election is not the only way a union can become your representative. Your employer may voluntarily recognize a union based on evidence – typically signed union-authorization cards – that a majority of employees want it to represent them. Once a union has been certified or recognized, the employer is required to bargain over your terms and conditions of employment with your union representative.”

Your Right to Form A Union | NLRB  

Consider, if you will, the two following charts: 

 (Doug Henwood) 

 (Economic Policy Institute) 

As you can see, there’s a clear correlation between the rift of productivity and wages and the decline of union density.  

All the way back in 2007, nearly 15 years ago, the average US worker produced $63,885 per year, or the equivalent of $30.71 per hour worked, figuring a 40-hour week. Looking at Gross Domestic Product, referred to as GDP for short, the United States’ 2020 GDP was roughly $83.7462 trillion. All that value was generated despite the pandemic weighing down the economy. 

 (Bureau of Economic Analysis) 

That’s $83,746,200,000,000 of value produced. Under capitalism, that money goes primarily to the parasitic capitalist class. That means if all the wealth produced in the USA in 2020 was distributed equally to all the people in the USA, we would’ve each earned $252,666 last year. Every single one of us – man, woman, person, and child of all ages. For those who prefer the hourly break-down, that’s $121.47 per hour for those of us who work 40 hours a week. Scarcity does not exist. Distribution and hoarding are the issues.  

Under a socialist (read: Marxist-Leninist) transitional state, the means of production would be owned by workers and distribution of resources would be democratically determined by the will of the workers — the people. Without the alienation and atomization of capitalism, it can be argued that production would be even higher. That argument aside, let’s use the same production levels for 2020 and assume the US was socialist and every worker and non-worker shared the wealth equally, literally nobody would be in poverty, or without a home, or without food and medicine, even if every other system was left untouched and prices remained the same for every good and service.  

Of course, a true transitional state would provide healthcare, jobs, housing, transportation, and food and water to every resident of said state. What people really need is those services. Money is just an intermediary created, vested, and maintained by the federal government, for us to exchange for those services. Suffice it to say, if the US were socialist, we would all enjoy the collective and individual wealth of equitable distribution of resources. While a socialist revolution isn’t currently possible, we can all rally together to win reforms to make life easier and more abundant for everyone, even under capitalism.  

For emphasis, if USA’s 2020 GDP was distributed equally to every USA resident, we’d all have made $252,666 last year. Instead, the median individual income was $43,206 

  • That previously mentioned $33 per hour minimum wage isn’t outlandish, it’s necessary, the moral minimum, and only a quarter of the value the individual resident of the USA produces on average, using the data we’ve already discussed.  
  • The Federal Job Guarantee would end involuntary employment, ensuring everyone who wants a job can have a well-paying, dignified and fulfilling job. 
  • Medicare for All or, ideally, PatriotCare, would ensure everyone in the USA can see a doctor and access whatever medical services they need without fear of cost.  
  • The Green New Deal would not only provide millions of good jobs and rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, it would also provide a solid path away from our self-inflicted extinction

All four of these policies are minimally acceptable compromises. Don’t allow your advocacy to crumble with the crumbs of some lesser offer. Crumbs are not acceptable, reject them. 

If work is really to be a second home, each workplace must be organized, unionized at the bare minimum, and made into a real community where each worker does fulfilling work while receiving the full value of their labors. With that kind of workplace as a second home, there really would be “no place like home.” 

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