by Gus Wood
May Day speech inspired by the activism and speech/words of the legendary Lucy Parsons
Brothers and sisters, the objective is clear today: We need workers to unite.
Brothers and sisters, we have reached the point of no return. Our very existence, our very essence as humans, our very livelihood as workers is being viciously assaulted by a white supremacist, ruling class onslaught of hatred. This underbelly of grotesque, cancerous malignancy festers in a racialized capitalist system that continues to not only destroy the communities that we built, but also to divide us along racial, class, and gender lines.
WE SAY NO MORE! Workers Unite!
Workers, we must understand our material conditions in this system: We live under a superficial, commodified pay system in which if you can’t pay, you can’t have. Everything has a price set upon it; earth, air, light and water, all have their price. And those that cannot work, they starve. Love, honor, fame, ambition, all the noblest aspirations that you and I hold dearest to our personal and social spaces, are also now commodified; they are all bought and sold daily. Those that cannot afford, they are isolated, ridiculed, oppressed. Everything is upon the market for sale: all of humanity under capitalism is merchandise and commerce. Our land, which is the prime necessity of existence, is held for a price, and the millions of working poor perish physically, mentally, and emotionally because they cannot pay. Food, water, clothing, and shelter exist in super abundance, but are withheld from the masses for that price.
The productive and distributive forces of nature, united with the power and ingenuity of the working people, are reserved for a price. The mental, moral, intellectual, and physical qualities are dwarfed, stunted, and crushed to maintain that price. And the working masses perish from the horrific effects of day after day of exploitation. This system is antagonistic to our very health as it relentlessly stresses our bodies and our minds. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the age-adjusted suicide rate in the US jumped 24 percent between 1999 and 2014, from 10.5 per 100,000 people to 13 per 100,000 people. In total, 42,773 people died from suicide in 2014 compared to 29,199 in 1999. This exploitative system also created and now facilitates the resurgence of explicit, overt racism that contorts our class consciousness. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the average white family in the U.S. has a net worth of more than $100,000, compared to less than $27,000 for African American and Latino families. More than 25 percent of blacks and Latinos languish below the official poverty line, and more than a third of black and Latino children live in poverty. Over half of African Americans between 16 and 24 cannot find the livable wage jobs that continue to disappear. In this system, our labor, our time, and our bodies are superfluous. The Labor Department notes that over 250,000 working people have been laid off while 362,000 people have stopped looking for work in the first four months of the year. That is over half a million lives thrown into volatile chaos and possible demise at the expense of this exploitative system. Yet, when we fail to find employment that will provide the basic necessities, or a sheriff throws us out of our homes for missing a loan payment with a ballooned interest rate, or our children suffer horrific medical catastrophes because of unaffordable medicines and procedures, Neo-Conservatives tell workers that we are lazy and do not work hard enough. Neo-Conservatives tell us that we do not deserve to make a living wage that correlates with the skyrocketing cost-of-living. Neo-Conservatives tell us that $7.25 an hour is more than enough to provide basic necessities for a household in 2016 America. Brothers and sisters, only our agency will silence those fraudulent voices for good!
WE SAY NO MORE! WORKERS UNITE!
And for what reason do we allow this abuse? Our bodies to contort, our blood pressure to rise, our mental stability to deteriorate? What rewards do we reap as exploited workers? Not wages! Based on wage statistics from the Social Security administration, over 50% of all American workers make less than $30,000 a year as the cost of living skyrockets. It’s not for some unrealistic goal of “opportunity” or “freedom.” According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, among the 10 jobs projected to grow the most over the next ten years, five of the 10 jobs pay less than $25,000 and seven of the 10 jobs pay less than the average annual wage of $35,000. And where will the majority of our children be working after going into hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt attending private universities like the University of Illinois, attempting to exercise this “freedom” and “opportunity”? As dishwashers and restaurant cooks! As janitors and fast food servers! As personal aids and retail store cashiers! Sub-working class labor that does not pay the basic bills nor put basic food on tables nor put basic clothes on children, nor keep decent water in homes! Capital has not only devastated communities by depleting our housing and social resources, but it also destroys opportunities and genuine democracy by taking away the ability for people to determine our own destiny.
We say NO MORE! Workers Unite!
Can it continue? NO it will not continue, because capitalism works in dialectics, meaning that it does create these horrific conditions and divisions in society, but it also creates the conditions for workers to organically develop a collective consciousness against their oppression.
How? Workers Unite! Workers Unite!
Thus, any serious discussion of the fight for fair labor and workers’ rights with the NTFC, SEIU, and GEO, any discussion of ending wage theft and sub-working class employment, any discussion of eliminating debt peonage and student loan armageddon, any discussion of destroying racial, gender, and sexual discrimination in employment practices has to take up not only a critique of capitalism, but also a credible strategy for abolishing it! For all workers, that strategy hinges on the revolutionary potential of a unified, multiracial and multi-ethnic working-class front that does not challenge only one law, only one politician, only one administration, only one chancellor, only one president, only one racist, only one policy, only one police murder, only one employer…but the ENTIRE SYSTEM!!!
Workers Unite! Workers Unite!
Brothers and sisters, when labor is no longer for sale, when our bodies and time are no longer owned and determined by employers, when our workers across industries and crafts have multiyear contracts that give wages that match their labor, employment that does not corrode the body, mind, or community, and education that centralizes our social and material conditions, society will produce free men and women who will think free, act free, and are FREE. Brothers and sisters, for our liberation, for our very survival, we must unite through organizing, not mobilizing; we must develop relationships with our working class brothers and sisters across identity lines; we must use political education in our communities to create agents and develop autonomous cultural institutions that emphasize our lives, our communities, our media, our education!
Workers Unite! Workers Unite! Workers Unite! Workers Unite!