Editorial: The Struggle is Real

June 14, 2024

The economic problems faced by workers are very real. Building worker power and unity is the only way to solve them.

The Struggle is Real_1199 Mag.jpgWorking people are struggling. Corporations are not. Overall profits recorded by corporations reached a record high in the fourth quarter of 2023. But hefty profits rarely translate into lower prices.

Businesses run by large corporations, like supermarkets and fuel companies, would much rather pocket even bigger profits than reduce their prices. Since these corporations hold monopoly control over the providers of most essential goods and services in our economy, they can and do charge whatever they can.

After all, working people usually do not have much choice about where they shop for food, buy gas for their cars or energy to heat their homes. They just have to find the money to pay the higher prices to buy what they need. At the same time, they have to deal with “shrinkflation”. That is when the size of a product like a box of cereal is made smaller, but the price remains the same.

At the end of 2023, Americans were paying at least 30 per cent more for beef, pork and poultry products than they were in 2020. How could this be? Just four companies now control the processing of 80 per cent of beef, nearly 70 per cent of pork and almost 60 per cent of poultry. So, it is easy for these companies to coordinate their price increases –giving consumers little choice but to pay them.

All of this explains why people feel as though their economic situation is worse, even when the statistics show that things are getting better. After all, wages are rising, and inflation is decreasing.

Wages have been going up because more and more workers have come together to collectively bargain better contracts with their unions. The trouble is that wages have not risen quite as fast as the prices, which have been jacked up by the greedy corporations who monopolize the American marketplace.

As delegates representing the roughly two million members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) gathered in Philadelphia in late May (see Building Power, p. 14), the 1199 contingent was the largest. One of the key themes at the convention was highlighting excessive corporate profits while building worker power to negotiate higher wage increases.

Building worker power also means rejecting any attempts to divide us along racial, ethnic or gender lines. That is why the convention also focused on dismantling structural racism.

1199SEIU is actively addressing this issue by holding workshops with staff and members across the Union to air traumatic experiences caused by racism and discuss how the labor movement can help to build a more inclusive society.

Inclusivity needs to underpin all the work that we do. Part of that is celebrating our members in all their racial, ethnic and religious diversity. During Pride month, we are also reflecting on past contract wins including LGBTQ+ members, but also looking towards a more Queer-inclusive future (see LGBQT+ Solidarity, p. 21).

We know that anything that is thrown up to divide us, whether it be based on race or sexual orientation, or anything else, is simply a boss tactic to dimmish our power. We won’t stand for it.