UE Local 1110-Think Like Them

I have to be honest here. I don’t understand all the stuff coming across the news media about short selling and bank collapses, but I do understand this. There is a lot of money somewhere in the world and it is produced by the people who work, not the people who own the places where we work. Another thing I understand is that the people who work (taxpayers) just had several hundred million dollars that they paid in taxes lifted from the treasury and handed to a few banks and corporations. Now, mind you, that money wasn’t given to the people who work in those banks or for those corporations. No, it was given to the owners and top executives of those banks and corporations so that they could get the economy going. How I understand this little money motion is that banks loan money to corporation so they can make their payrolls and other such debts, which in turn guarantees continued production which in turn allows for continued consumption by people around the world who have money and credit to buy the goods produced.

Yet, for some reason the money isn’t moving and people are losing their jobs right and left while the owners and executives of the banks and corporations are whining in the media and crying to Congress that they need more taxpayer dollars. Why isn’t that money moving? Because the banks are holding on to it instead of lending it. So, after years of manipulating money and credit lines, the banks that got rich from the unregulated free market trough set up by Congress and the rest of the US government are now begging Congress for taxpayers’ money so they can keep it in their vaults and make interest off it. Meanwhile, companies that operate because of money loaned by the banks are unable to make payrolls and are shutting down.

Fortunately for working America, some workers recently refused to leave after their company’s last Friday closing time. That’s right, around two hundred workers at Republic Windows and Doors are sitting in the factory that they work at even though the company has shut down because Bank of America (the recipient of $25 billion in federal bailout money so far) refuses to lend Republic the money needed to continue its business. This action by the Republic Workers, who are members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110, is the most appropriate response to the latest capitalist crisis manufactured by the capitalists. If the government is going to take workers money and give or lend it to the banks and corporations, then those who made that money must demand that it reaches them. Otherwise, it seems to me that the banks and corporations (and the owners and executives that own and run them) will take the bailout money and keep it until the crisis runs it course. Then, they will not only be sitting pretty, they will be even wealthier than they are now and control even more, thanks to interest earned and assets they will have received due to foreclosures and business failures. Of course, this assumes that capitalism has not reached its final crisis.

If capitalism has reached this rubicon, the possibilities for the future expand tremendously. Imagine working in a place where there is no owner and no management other than you and your fellow workers. If one recalls Argentina in 2001, they will remember television video of young people in the streets of the country’s cities blocking traffic and liberating food and other supplies. They will recall a government collapsing under the weight of its own lies and belief in the IMF model of capitalism. They will also remember scenes of panicked middle-class Argentinians lining up outside banks in the hope that their money would be returned to them and that it would have some value if it was returned.

These scenes were only one part of the story in the wake of Argentina’s economic collapse. There were other tales of people setting up their own methods of food distribution and resource management. There were tales of popular assemblies organizing the delivery of essentials like fuel and shelter. There were questions in the international capitalist media of how the global capitalists would recover their losses and if the collapse would spread to other nations that subscribed to the same debt-laden economic model. This same media had little sympathy for the plight of the working Argentinians, only concerns for the plight of the capitalists’ money.

Or, as the Lavaca Collectiva writes in its poetic introduction to their book Sin Patron: “In ages favorable to impostors, it’s prime time for business interests to masquerade as public opinion. Lobbyists honk their own horns in hopes of blocking news traffic…. And the media we have to help us interpret (these times) is really a pill that causes impotence.” They continue writing, encouraging the reader to reject this formula. “The limit of all predictions,” they write. “is what people are capable are doing.” This is the crux of this book and the stories therein. Just as the Argentinian collapse of 2001 should have been a lesson for the capitalists on Wall Street and other money capitals, the response of the workers in Argentina and their brothers and sisters in Chicago’s Republic Doors and Windows are equally instructive to those of us earning a living by working for someone else anywhere on the planet.

If you wish to write a message of support or financially support the members of UE Local 1110, please go to UE’s homepage.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

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  1. Don Hawkins said on December 9th, 2008 at 11:34am #