pindostan

Demagogs’ denunciation of Pindostan’s revolutionary heritage provides an opening for Trump
Niles Niemuth, WSWS, Jul 7 2020

The Filth & The Fury

Donald Trump attained new heights of buffoonery in his Jul 3 speech before Mount Rushmore, when he attempted to combine an absurd oration proclaiming his devotion to democracy with a carefully practiced impersonation of Mussolini. Struggling with his teleprompter, Trump proclaimed:

Our Founders launched not only a revolution in government, but a revolution in the pursuit of justice, equality, liberty, and prosperity. No nation has done more to advance the human condition than Pindostan. And no people have done more to promote human progress than the citizens of our great nation. It was all made possible by the courage of 56 patriots who gathered in Philadelphia 244 years ago and signed the Declaration of Independence. They enshrined a divine truth that changed the world forever when they said: “All men are created equal.” These immortal words set in motion the unstoppable march of freedom. Our Founders boldly declared that we are all endowed with the same divine rights, given us by our Creator in Heaven. And that which God has given us, we will allow no one ever to take away. Ever.

He went on:

We will state the truth in full, without apology: We declare that Pindostan is the most just and exceptional nation ever to exist on Earth. We are proud of the fact that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, and we understand that these values have dramatically advanced the cause of peace and justice throughout the world.

Trump does not know what he is talking about. Just for the sake of historical accuracy, it should be pointed out that the Founders explicitly opposed all efforts to commit the Pindo government to favor any set of religious principles over another. Thomas Jefferson’s conception of religious freedom, as he wrote in 1776 in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, granted equal legal rights to “the Jew, the Gentile, the Christian, the Mahometan, the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination.” Later, and even more famously, then President Jefferson wrote in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in Connecticut that the religious clauses of the First Amendment of the Constitution had built “a wall between Church and State.” Of course, the real problem in Trump’s approach to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution is not that he is ignorant. Rather, it is that his opinions are those of an admirer of fascism. He would, if he had his druthers, overthrow the Constitution and preside over a military-police dictatorship. That is precisely what he attempted to do in early June. The effort failed for lack of adequate preparation. But it remains Trump’s goal. His speech included threats to crush his political opponents, especially the “Marxists” and the “radical left.” However, and this is what was most notable about his Mount Rushmore speech as well as the one he delivered in Faschingstein on Jul 4, Trump packaged his essentially fascist speech as a defense of Pindostan’s revolutionary democratic traditions. His opponents, Trump proclaimed, are repudiating all the democratic principles and traditions associated with the Pindo Revolution and its leaders. But he, Donald Trump, is the champion of Pindostan’s revolutionary heritage. How has it become possible for Trump to posture as the defender of Pindo democracy? As the WSJ, full of praise for Trump’s speech, explained:

Liberal elites have created this opening for him by failing to stand up against the radicals who are using the justified anger at the killing of George Floyd as a cudgel to hijack Pindostan’s liberal institutions and impose their intolerant political views on everyone else.

Noting the “NYT’s 1619 project, which derides Pindostan’s founding in 1776 and replaces it with a history that distills the country into a slave-owning enterprise that remains racist to the core,” the WSJ asks:

Who is really stoking division and a culture war?

The newspaper concludes that, despite the Trump administration’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trump might even win reelection if he keeps going along these lines:

No doubt Mr Trump hopes this theme can restart his election campaign, and for once he gave a speech that was about something more than himself. Stay on script, add a second-term agenda, and he might even have a chance. But whatever the result in November, Mr Trump’s Mount Rushmore theme isn’t going away. Progressive elites are courting a backlash that will have more than one champion.

In other words, Trump is taking full advantage of the fact that the Demagog Party is seeking to direct multiracial protests against police violence down the path of reactionary racialist politics. Trump and the Thugs have seized the opportunity to absurdly cast themselves as the defenders the revolutionary heritage of Pindostan, as the legitimate demands for the removal of Confederate monuments have devolved into attacks on Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Grant, along with abolitionists who fought and died to put an end to slavery. Following the logic laid out by the NYT in its racialist rewriting of history, the 1619 Project, which casts Lincoln as simply a garden-variety racist, a monument to Lincoln and the destruction of slavery is to be removed from public view in Boston. An op-ed published by the NYT on Monday called for the destruction of the Jefferson Memorial in Faschingstein. According to the NYT, since Jefferson and many of his contemporaries were slave owners, there is no progressive content in what they did.

From the standpoint of political strategy, the disassociation of the “left” from the revolutionary traditions of Pindostan is a blunder of monumental proportions (to coin a phrase), giving Trump the opportunity to legitimize his fascist message as a defense of Pindo democracy. However, the attack on figures like Jefferson, the 18th-century author of the greatest Enlightenment statement, that “all men are created equal,” has nothing to do with genuine left-wing or socialist politics. Rather, it gives expression to the social interests and fundamentally anti-democratic aspirations of an upper middle-class layer. The last four decades, beginning with the presidency of Reagan 40 and continued in all subsequent administrations, have witnessed an extraordinary growth of social inequality. The Black Pindo population has not been exempted from this process. A vast social chasm separates the wealthiest 10% of Black Pindos from the poorest 90%. The protracted process of wealth concentration has produced over time an erosion of democratic consciousness. This has found peculiar expression in the largely upper middle-class academic community of tenured professors, increasingly hostile to theories of history that prioritize class and class struggle. This section of society is far more interested in theories that concentrate on issues of identity, meaning race, gender, sexuality, etc, which can be employed to demand and achieve greater access to the massive wealth now concentrated at the apex of society. The social interests of this layer are fused with the efforts of the ruling as a whole to divide the working class and block the development of a unified struggle against capitalism.

The Demagogs and Thugs have deployed race in their own ways for this purpose. While Trump tries to cultivate a fascist base, the Demagogs relentlessly stoke racial conflict with their promotion of reactionary conceptions such as “white privilege” and the claim that police violence is the responsibility of “white people” rather than the capitalist state. From the milieu that surrounds the Demagog Party, including the NYT, every issue is interpreted as a racial issue. Poverty, the impact of the coronavirus, police violence and every other consequences of capitalism are presented as products of the irreconcilable racial divide. This framing of Pindo society has the benefit that it does not lead to any questioning of the capitalist system or the domination over society of the corporate and financial oligarchy. It is not a question of establishing genuine social equality, but rather “equity,” the greater apportionment of positions of power to a small section of minority populations. No progressive movement has ever been built based on the elevation of race as the fundamental social category. Genuinely left-wing socialist politics are based on the fight to unify the entire working class, regardless of race, gender or nationality. It is only on this basis that all forms of racism can be opposed. In carrying out this struggle, the working class is the real repository of all that is progressive in the revolutionary struggles of the past, including the two great bourgeois democratic Pindo revolutions. The development of such a movement is not only of an intellectual-polemical character. The decisive question is the development of the class struggle itself. It is precisely to the emergence of such a movement, accelerated by the homicidal back-to-work campaign of the ruling elites and the massive social crisis engulfing the country, that both Trump and the Demagogs are responding. The working class must be armed with a revolutionary socialist leadership. This is the central task of the SEP and its sister parties in the IC4I. We call on those who want to build this movement to join the SEP and take up the fight for socialism.

As cut-off of $600 weekly benefit and wave of evictions loom, Congress takes a holiday
Shannon Jones, WSWS, Jul 7 2020

With tens of millions of workers facing the triple threat of the cutoff of the $600 weekly federal supplement to their state unemployment compensation, the resumption of evictions in most states, and a renewed upsurge in the coronavirus pandemic, the response of the federal Congress was to go on vacation. The Demagog-controlled House and the Thug-controlled Senate adjourned Jul 3 without taking up an extension of the $600 weekly supplement provided in the CARES Act, which is set to expire on Jul 25. Congress will not return to work until Monday, Jul 20, and there is little prospect that the full supplement will be extended, given intransigent opposition from corporate Pindostan, which has branded the payments a “disincentive” to forcing workers back to unsafe workplaces.

The $600 supplement has been a lifeline for tens of millions of workers thrown onto unemployment lines by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic crisis. Large numbers of workers, particularly those in part-time and other contingent forms of work, actually saw an increase in income because combined state and federal benefits brought them up to nearly $1k/wk, actually above the official poverty line. The looming unemployment cut-off takes place as temporary eviction moratoriums have expired in 20 states, including Texas and Wisconsin, and eviction bans in nine others are set to expire by the end of the month, as well as the federal ban, which affects only properties insured or underwritten through federal agencies. A study by the real estate firm Amherst projects that almost 28m households are at risk of eviction due to job losses related to the pandemic.

The Trump administration and most congressional Thugs are opposing renewal of the $600 unemployment supplement, proposing either a complete cut-off, an extension at a much lower level, or transforming the unemployment benefit into an incentive bonus for going back to work, essentially paying workers to risk their lives and the lives of their families and friends under conditions of a worsening pandemic. The same options have been embraced by sections of the Democratic Party, with at least one prominent Demagog, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, a multimillionaire, telling a local Chamber of Commerce that the $600 benefit “discourages work.” Some Senate Demagogs proposed to extend the supplement at lower levels indexed to the official unemployment rate (which grossly undercounts the actual jobless toll). The House passed an extension of the $600 benefit into early 2021, but the vote in May on the so-called Heroes Act was purely for show. Pelosi and other Demagog leaders knew the bill would go nowhere given Thug opposition, and the vote allowed them to proclaim their sympathy with struggling workers at zero cost.

The 18 days until the cut-off will be consumed by backroom horse-trading between the House Demagogs, the Senate Thugs and the White House, with all factions vying for the support of Wall Street and big business. Since the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, the response of all factions of the ruling establishment has been to prioritize support of Wall Street. After enacting a multi-trillion-dollar bailout of the big corporations, they soon dropped efforts to contain the pandemic, as well as measures to further ameliorate its economic impact on workers. The end of the federal $600 unemployment supplement would plunge millions of families overnight into poverty under conditions where there are 19.3m people drawing jobless benefits, compared to just 1.7m in early March. That number is three times higher than the peak during the 2008-2009 Great Recession. Jobless benefits vary widely state by state, but generally only provide a fraction of prior wages. In Florida, for example, the maximum weekly benefit is a starvation level $275.

More than 1m new claims for unemployment have been filed for each of the past 16 weeks, another staggering number that speaks to the depth of the economic catastrophe engulfing Pindostan. Adding to the hardship, food prices are rising at the fastest rate in 50 years. The Consumer Price Index for food is 3.4% and rising but has been much higher for staple goods like canned food and pasta. Perhaps the most immediate threat to large numbers of working-class families hit hard by unemployment is that they have been unable to make rent payments in April, May and June, and now face the threat of imminent eviction and homelessness. The COVID-19 Eviction Defense Project based in Colorado warned that 20 percent of the 110m renters in the US are at risk of eviction by Sep 30, some 500k in the state of Colorado alone. Breonne DeDecker, a housing rights advocate in New Orleans, warned:

Extra unemployment is going to expire, and the CARES Act protections are going to expire, and we are going to see a huge public health and housing crisis the likes we haven’t seen since immediately post Katrina. Ultimately, reopening eviction court without ensuring that tenants can actually deal with their accumulated rent debts is a disaster.

Eviction filings through Jun 27 were up 13% compared with previous years in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The state lifted a foreclosure moratorium in late May. An eviction moratorium in Pennsylvania expires Jul 10 and the one in Michigan Jul 15. In Arizona, currently the site of a major coronavirus resurgence, the statewide ban on evictions expires Jul 22. Pennsylvania housing advocates expect a surge of evictions when the moratorium expires. Kenneth Pick, executive director of the Berks County redevelopment authority in the city of Reading warned that the end of the moratorium could lead to a surge in evictions and a potential homelessness crisis. He said:

We think there will be a considerably large number of people facing eviction when the moratorium is finally lifted. The numbers still are not clear. No-one has been able to figure it out because no one has been able to file evictions.

A study by the Urban Institute estimated that there were 8.9m renter households where at least one person lost a job between February and April. Many of these households were already in precarious financial straits and could face eviction once moratoriums end. The economic fall-out from the pandemic has been especially severe for immigrant workers who are not eligible for unemployment benefits and may fear to challenge evictions due to their immigration status. The threat of mass impoverishment for millions of unemployed workers takes place under conditions of rising social anger expressed in the mass protests over police violence and job actions by autoworkers, nurses and other sections of workers over lack of protection from the spread of COVID-19. This poses the necessity for the working class to establish its political independence from the parties of big business and advance a socialist program directed against the capitalist system, whose only solution to the mounting crisis is war and social reaction. No progressive resolution to the present crisis is possible except by breaking the stranglehold of Wall Street over economic and political life.

ICE threatens international students with deportation unless their college resumes in-person classes
Sam Dalton, WSWS, Jul 7 2020

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced Monday that international students holding F-1 visas will not be allowed to remain in the country if their college fails to hold in-person classes this fall. The F-1 visa is the most popular study visa in Pindostan. Last year, there were more than 1m studying in Pindostan, the vast majority of whom reside in the country on F-1 student visas. In 2019 alone, almost 400k F-1 visas were issued. The ICE press release states:

F-1 and M-1 students attending schools operating entirely online may not take a full course load and remain in Pindostan.

It went on to disclose that new visas for incoming international first-year students will not be granted and that all students currently in possession of visas who are not attending in-person classes will be denied entry at the border. The statement goes on to note:

All active students currently in Pindostan enrolled in such programs must, depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to another school with in-person tuition.

The measure was undoubtedly meant to place pressure on colleges to pursue a reckless reopening of campuses in the fall. The announcement from ICE came only hours after Trump tweeted:

If the measure is not reversed and colleges do not reopen in-person classes, thousands of international students will be compelled to unenroll in universities across the country. Many Pindo colleges, whose finances have become increasingly reliant on international student tuition in recent years, are now facing a choice between a deadly reopening of campus and financial collapse. In practice, the Trump administration is holding colleges hostage, with the release fee being the lives of students and their families. The rule change is a reversion to a pre-existing regulation originally meant to prevent students from using cheap online classes as a method of coming to and staying in Pindostan. However, the regulation was suspended following the shift to online learning in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. ICE has now reinstated the pre-existing regulation, in order to force international students out of the country.

The move has already sparked significant outrage among students and faculty who rightly see it as a major attack against the hundreds of thousands of international students studying in Pindostan. As of Jul 5, only 60% of Pindo colleges were planning to return to in-person classes this fall. The majority of these schools are only opening these classes in a limited capacity, reserving them for freshmen only, for example. With COVID-19 cases on the rise in 36 states and over 130k people now dead from the virus in Pindostan, it is highly likely that many of the colleges planning in-person classes will be forced to re-evaluate their decision as the fall semester approaches. Those schools which choose to reopen with in-person classes will be at high risk of outbreaks on campus, forcing a mid-semester shut-down.

International students now face an incredibly difficult situation. If their college goes online and they wish to stay within Pindostan, these students will have to relocate to a different school at short notice, at a high cost, and in the midst of a deadly pandemic. Once they have moved, they will be forced to take in-person classes and therefore endanger their lives for the sake of remaining in Pindostan. An international student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, Abir Mansur described the situation to WSWS reporters:

They don’t care about international student safety and are forcing them to come to campus and die, or leave the country.

Where colleges do experience outbreaks mid-semester and are forced to close, international students will have to leave Pindostan, again at short notice and great expense. Furthermore, they will be forced to return home to their families following exposure to a deadly virus. Thousands of international students are weighing what consequences might await them if they do choose to stay. If forced to leave the country mid-semester how would international students move their belongings? How would they settle ongoing rent agreements? Will they pay high tuition fees for a further period of sub-standard online education? And who will pay for the cost of repatriation? This “suggestion” by ICE that students simply change schools mid-semester is clearly a highly unrealistic course of action for any student. Beyond the irrationality of the new rule, there is a particular cruelness to ICE’s decision to make this announcement on the same day that a number of Ivy league colleges announced their plans for the fall semester. Many students who were expecting a resumption of their undergraduate and graduate careers in Pindostan have had their plans shattered. Madeline, an international student at Rutgers who has stayed in Pindostan during the pandemic, told the WSWS:

It just seems like a very useless action to take. There’s no threat or potential danger of increased risks of COVID-19 transmission as we are already here! To hear the news felt like a slap in the face knowing what many of us are contributing monetary wise and scholarly as well. The uncertainty it brings is terrible for all of us.

Supreme Court rules Electoral College members must follow state vote in presidential elections
Alan Gilman, WSWS, Jul 7 2020

The Supreme Court on Monday in a unanimous 9-0 decision in Chiafalo v Washington ruled that electors in presidential elections must cast their votes in the Electoral College for the candidate who won the popular vote in their state. This case arose in the aftermath of the 2016 election when a handful of Demagog members of the Electoral College attempted to deprive Trump of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Although Trump lost the popular vote by 3m votes, he carried 30 states with a combined total of 306 electoral votes. A handful of Demagog electors announced that they would vote for a “moderate” Thug rather than Hillary Clinton in the hopes that they could convince enough Thug electors to cast similar votes, thereby reducing Trump’s total below the 270 needed for election. If that occurred, the Constitution would then require that the presidential winner would have to be decided by the House, controlled at the time by Thugs, which could have elected a Republican other than Trump.

More than 30 states have laws penalizing or forbidding “faithless electors,” those who run on a slate chosen by the major parties but then choose to vote for someone other than their party’s candidate. The case decided by the 9-0 vote involved the state of Washington, which fined its “faithless electors,” while a separate order without an opinion upheld the Colorado law, under which one of that state’s electors was removed and replaced by another Demagog who voted for Clinton. In unanimously ruling that all electors must vote for the presidential candidate who won their state’s popular vote, the Supreme Court is attempting to avert a potential constitutional crisis in the upcoming election, when the contest between Trump and Biden could well come down to a handful of electoral votes. The legitimacy of elections and in particular presidential elections was clearly on the mind of the court when it heard oral arguments on this case in May. Justice Samuel Alito observed that if the popular vote is close, the possibility of “changing just a few votes” would rationally “prompt the losing party to launch a massive campaign to try to influence electors, and there would be a long period of uncertainty about who the next president was going to be.” Similarly, Justice Brett Kavanaugh alluded to what he called “the chaos principle of judging, which suggests that if it’s a close call, we shouldn’t facilitate or create chaos.”

The unease in which the Supreme Court, comprised of some of the most class-conscious representatives of the ruling class, views the upcoming election is a back-handed acknowledgement that masses of people are deeply alienated from the two-party political system and view the entire electoral process as corrupt and illegitimate. Not only has the voters’ will been nullified in two out of the last five presidential elections, with the popular vote winner turning into the Electoral College loser in both 2000 and 2016, but in the 2016 election, 47% of those who were eligible to vote for president chose not to do so. Both capitalist parties have sought to discredit the electoral process, with the Democrats claiming Trump’s 2016 victory was the product of Russian interference, while Trump now claims that any effort to accommodate the election process to the health concerns of the coronavirus pandemic, with more extensive early voting and greatly expanded voting by mail, amounts to “rigging” the election.

A 9-0 vote in the Supreme Court must reflect serious fears in the ruling elite over allowing another element of uncertainty and arbitrariness in the already arcane and thoroughly anti-democratic process through which Pindo presidents are selected. Although many Pindos think that they elect the president and vice president, in fact, it is the Electoral College, an obscure intermediary mechanism, that formally determines who wins the election. There is an elector for every member of the House of Representatives and the Senate plus an additional three for people who live in the District of Columbia for a total of 538 with 270 votes needed for majority. If there is a tie or no candidate receives a majority, then the election goes to the House. This system had been considered a formality, because usually the winner of the popular vote also wins the Electoral College vote. But twice in the past two decades the winner of the popular vote did not become president, and instead the winner in the Electoral College prevailed.

In 2000, Bush 43 became president, winning five more Electoral College votes than Al Gore, though Gore won roughly 0.5m more popular votes. In that election the winner was dependent on the result from Florida in which Bush held a lead of a few hundred votes out of 6m cast. Legal issues arose regarding recounts, disputes over ballots and voters’ intent, and the Florida state supreme court ordered all votes to be counted after the state government, headed by Bush’s brother Jeb, had halted any further counting or examination of ballots. The election was eventually decided by the Supreme Court in the infamous case of Bush v Gore that upheld the termination of the vote-counting by Florida and thereby installed Bush in the White House, following Gore’s abject capitulation to the 5-4 court decision. To further underscore the undemocratic character of presidential elections, the Supreme Court reiterated in Bush v Gore that there is no constitutional right to vote for president or for presidential electors. The state legislatures have chosen to use statewide elections to select electors, but they could simply appoint the electors if they choose, the justices declared. It is noteworthy that both major parties sided with the state laws on “faithless electors,” upheld by the court. Both parties are concerned that the entire anti-democratic apparatus of the Electoral College has come increasingly under scrutiny after the debacles of 2000 and 2016, and they oppose any significant change in the electoral structure, which includes the long-standing political monopoly of the two corporate-controlled parties.

Illinois and Chicago offer paltry COVID-19 assistance program to residents
Brian Green, WSWS, Jul 7 2020

As the number of Illinois COVID-19 cases rise, Governor J B Pritzker has moved the state into phase 4 of the “Restore Illinois” plan. The new development eases phase 3 restrictions, allowing previously halted activities and businesses to resume with rules such as 50% maximum capacity or less, social distancing measures, and mandatory masks. COVID-19 cases are growing out of control across Pindostan, with over 130k deaths. Despite Illinois sharing the trend with a sharp growth in new cases, the state is reducing social distancing measures. According to Worldometer, the lowest 7-day-average cases of COVID-19 in Illinois was 602 on Jun 18. This week, Illinois’s 7-day-average increased to 800 and the rate of infection will only grow as social distancing measures are relaxed without any measures for containment. The reopening in Illinois is part of a broader campaign by the Trump administration, with the support of both parties and the media, to force workers back to work under conditions where doing so risks sickness and death. Pritzker was asked by a reporter during a press conference on Jun 17 if he would consider closing the economy again in Illinois, Pritzker responded:

I’m not considering moving back to a previous stage as you know in our restore Illinois plan. We will be, as you know evaluating adjustments that may need to be made along the way. Because during phase four we want to make sure that businesses are continuing to reopen.

In an effort to defuse opposition to this homicidal return to work campaign, the Pritzker administration announced a $900M Package Community and Business Grant Programs for Illinois. Similarly, City of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, also a Democrat, is implementing a $1.13b COVID-19 grant program. Both programs are funded by federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) act, which transferred trillions to the stock market while only providing a pittance for social relief. The pandemic has decimated the lives of workers across the country. The national unemployment rate currently stands at roughly 15% as compared to only 3.5% last May. In Illinois, at the end of May, unemployment rose to 14.7% statewide, compared to 3.5% last May, totaling 738.5k lost jobs. In the Chicago region, which includes the city of Chicago and large suburbs like Naperville, unemployment surpassed the state total, reaching 15.4% compared to 3.3% last year.

Unemployment is leading to sharp increases in food insecurity among Chicago workers. In May, the Greater Chicago Food Depository stated it is serving 76% more people in need of food than in January. Lightfoot’s program will not address the massive needs of workers. Of the $1.13b, $403m will go to COVID-19 Direct Response and $376m to Airport assistance. This leaves only approximately $350m for social programs, a pale comparison to Chicago’s $1.8b 2020 police department budget. Moreover, only $4.5m will go to food assistance, $10m for mental health, and $11 million for community Health-Care Infrastructure. This distribution is not an adequate amount to have any meaningful effect. Many of these social programs were cut by previous Democratic administrations of Chicago such as Rahm Emmanuel’s notable closing of schools and mental health institutions as cost-cutting measures. In a conference call reported in the Chicago Tribune, Lightfoot warned of possible austerity measures. Lightfoot said:

The magnitude of the problems and the challenges that we all face is such that only the federal government has the resources and the wherewithal to act at a scale that’ll make a meaningful difference. Without that, we are looking at a lot of really, really difficult or impossible choices. Ultimately though, all options including raising property taxes and including layoffs have to remain on the table.

Before the pandemic, according to census.gov, some 20% of Chicago’s residents lived in poverty, 25% of children lived in poverty. 10% of residents lived in extreme poverty. This staggering social inequality will only be exacerbated by the pandemic, soaring unemployment and looming cuts to social services. Pritzker’s COVID-19 assistance programs fails to meet the pressing needs of Illinois workers. Under the state program, the Illinois Housing Development Authority is launching two programs. The Emergency Rental Assistance is a $150m program that provides $5k grants in emergency rental assistance to Illinois tenants who are unable to pay their rent, which is estimated to amount to approximately 30k renters who are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic in the state, and the Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program, which is expected to assist approximately 10k eligible homeowners who are unable to pay their mortgage. The amount of people expected to be reached by these programs is a fraction of a percent of the population that requires assistance and will serve no one in a reasonable capacity. Before the pandemic hit, bookclubchicago.com reported that Chicago’s five eviction courts were seeing around 23k eviction cases each year. With massive unemployment, this number will grow sharply.

Illinois is a state which according to Forbes has a total of 17 billionaires with Governor Pritzker himself being among them, having a combined net worth of $52.5b. This amount of wealth is more than enough to provide the necessary health care and social assistance to maintain social distancing and eliminate the outbreak, except it is wasted and hoarded in the hands of a few. To fight against this homicidal policy of herd immunity and austerity, workers will find a solution only in an international and socialist program independent from all capitalist factors. The SEP is running Joseph Kishore and Norissa Santa Cruz in the presidential election to fight for an independent working-class alternative to the political and economic system that insists that workers must suffer all the consequences of the pandemic while the rich get bailed out. We encourage all students and workers to join the SEP and fight for the formation of new revolutionary leadership in the working class.

Demagog Governor Gretchen Whitmer pushes unsafe reopening of Michigan schools
Mitch Marcus, WSWS, Jul 7 2020

Last week, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer released her “Return to School Roadmap,” which demands the reopening of schools even as COVID-19 cases are spiking in the state and expected to surge again in the fall. The Demagog governor’s program largely adopts state Thugs’ reckless “Return to Learn” outline released a week earlier. Whitmer also released the outline of a budget deal with the Thug-led legislature to fill a $3.2b budget shortfall for FY 2019-20 through deep cuts to state employees and school districts. The state still faces an overall $3b shortfall for FY 2020–21, not including additional funding needed for vital pandemic containment and protection measures. For FY 2019–20, the state deal includes $512m in funding from the CARES Act to cover coronavirus protection measures, far lower than the estimated $1b that is required. It entails $256m in direct cuts to state funding for K-12 public education, which translates to average cuts of $664 from the $8,111 total per-pupil spending across the state. Additionally, Michigan schools face a massive $1.2b shortfall for the coming school year, which translates to another $700 cut in per-pupil spending, bringing the combined total for both years to 16.8% in cuts, a devastating blow to public education. Districts across the state are already slashing their budgets, including $10.6m from Grand Rapids Public Schools, which will eliminate 111 jobs. Kalamazoo Public Schools plans to cut $7.4m from their budget, including cuts of 1.33% to salaries above $11/hr. Districts across the state, including Detroit, Ann Arbor, Chelsea, Ypsilanti, Lincoln and Portage, are dipping into or depleting any cash reserves they had.

Michigan, as with all other states, is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the premature, bipartisan back-to-work drive. Covidusa.net reports that at 428 cases per day on average over seven days, Michigan is experiencing a 59.7% increase in new cases from two weeks ago. As with much of the country for which studies show an enormous undercounting of COVID-19 deaths, the Michigan Dept of Health and Human Services reports 3,346 deaths from the virus in April, but 4,907 more total deaths than in Apr 2019. This 19.5% jump in non-COVID identified deaths likely include many miscategorized as, among others, pneumonia and the seasonal flu, which showed a jump of 26% from Apr 2019 to Apr 2020. Nevertheless, stating that she is “optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall,” Whitmer is making it clear that she is determined to reopen schools even as cases spike and schools will likely serve as new and powerful vectors for community transmission of the virus. With high levels of absenteeism among industrial workers—out of concern about contracting the disease and also the lack of child care—the drive to reopen schools across the US is necessary for the ruling class to continue to pump out profits from workers needed to pay for the massive bailouts of the stock market and giant corporations. On Monday, Trump tweeted:

While it is filled with all sorts of rhetoric about safety and public health concerns, Whitmer’s plan to reopen schools is an expression of the same class imperatives of the corporate and financial elite that Trump so crudely expresses. Whitmer’s plan is dependent upon an unscientific regional and even sub-regional assessment of risk, not bearing in mind the porous nature of school district, county and state boundaries. The plan was developed by Whitmer’s appointed 25-member Return to School Advisory Council, which involved only two teachers and was chaired by Tonya Allen, CEO of the pro-corporate Skillman Foundation. Allen and the foundation have been heavily involved in school privatization and restructuring of public education in Detroit. Under the Roadmap, districts are required to have three plans ready depending upon which phase they are in of the politically driven Michigan Safe Start Plan. In Phase 3, “Flattening of the curve,” and below, districts must implement their remote learning-only plan; in Phase 4, “Improving,” schools must open for in-person instruction while implementing “more stringent required safety protocols”; in Phase 5, “Containing,” schools are open for in-person instruction with only “moderate required safety protocols.”

MI Safe Start Plan

At present, most of the lower peninsula of Michigan is in Phase 4 of the Safe Start Plan, with the northern part of the state in Phase 5. During Phase 4, all students in grades 6–12 are required to wear a mask in classrooms and common areas. Students in grades K–5 must wear masks in common areas but are not required to do so in the classroom if they remain there throughout the day. Teachers must always wear a mask. School staff, students, and bus drivers must wear masks. While paying lip service to health professionals’ guidelines for six-foot distancing, social distancing policies are to be decided individually by the 587 school districts with the understanding that “class sizes should be kept to the level afforded by necessary spacing requirements.” That is, desks are to be spaced six feet apart where feasible. On buses, even at Phase 4, there are no limits to the number of students per bus, though all will be required to use hand sanitizer when boarding. In other words, in the overcrowded and understaffed classrooms and buses of most public schools, social distancing will be non-existent. The guidelines mandate that disinfecting of buses must be done after every trip, and common areas such as libraries, computer labs and art rooms must be cleaned between every class, as must all desks in every classroom after every period. No additional funds for custodial staffing or cleaning supplies were allocated to meet this colossal expansion in need. Expressing the skepticism of parents regarding these ineffective requirements, one parent commented on MLive:

I may be a gambling man when it comes to sports, but not when it comes to the lives of the folks in my household. Under no circumstances will I allow my children to break quarantine until the pandemic ends or until there is a vaccine that proves to be effective.

Whitmer’s press conference occurred as a University of Michigan survey found that one-third of Michigan parents might not send their children back to school in the fall due to coronavirus concerns. When asked for her reaction to the survey, Whitmer said those parents were not only from Michigan but also Illinois and Ohio, and that Michigan parents would now be assuaged having seen her plan.
Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) Superintendent Nikolai Vitti tweeted:

A parent responded to this by tweeting:

Adding to the confusion and apprehension surrounding the reopening of schools and the rising number of cases in Michigan, Whitmer announced that two of the eight regions of the state were moving backward on the Risk Levels Map, which was thought to determine a region’s placement on the Safe Start Plan. Lansing was moved from Level 4, “Medium Risk,” to Level 2, “High Risk,” and Grand Rapids was moved from Level 4 to Level 3, “Medium-High Risk.” Whitmer neglected to explain that this bore no relation to those regions’ position on the Safe Start Plan, which remained unchanged at 4, thereby allowing the continued relaxation of business and social activity.

Risk level map

Various media outlets, including Fox 2 and WXYZ, published stories, later edited or retracted, that those two regions would now have greater restrictions re-imposed due to their being moved lower on the Risk Level Map. However, Zach Pohl, Communications Director for Whitmer, tweeted in response to heated demands for clarification from reporters:

This initiated a wave of denunciations from reporters and residents alike on Twitter. One person commented:

The driving force behind both the reopening of the economy and the schools is the profit interest of the corporate and financial elite, not the health of millions of people. Operating on behalf of General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, Whitmer allowed the reopening of auto plants in mid-May, even though they are non-essential and are located in regions that were still in Level 3, full quarantine. In their efforts to reopen schools and the broader economy, the Michigan political establishment has the full support of the state’s largest teacher union, the Michigan Education Association and the Pindo Federation of Teachers Michigan branch, whose presidents Paula Herbart and David Hecker sit on Whitmer’s back-to-school council. Both unions are wholly subservient to big business and the Demagog Party and seek to contain the building opposition among teachers and all education workers. Even before the pandemic, there was widespread opposition among educators against the bipartisan austerity and school privatization policies, with more than 700k teachers and other educators involved in a wave of militant strikes in 2018–19. This anger, which took the form in many cases of initial actions independent of the unions, will only intensify as the health of teachers and students are sacrificed as part of the reckless back-to-work campaign. In addition, there will be enormous opposition to the demands for new budget cuts after both corporate-controlled parties found trillions to bailout Wall Street and other giant corporations. Educators must oppose the reckless reopening of schools and the broader economy demanded by Trump, Whitmer and all their accomplices. The lives and safety of workers and students must take precedence over the profit motive of the capitalists. To assert their own interests, educators must form independent, rank-and-file committees at every school and neighborhood, to unite with the broader working class in a struggle against the capitalist system, which is the root cause of the catastrophe created by the pandemic.

Joliet, Il, nurses remain determined as union moves to end strike
Jessica Goldstein, WSWS, Jul 7 2020

Striking nurses at AMITA Health Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Illinois continued their brave struggle against the nominally nonprofit Catholic and Adventist health care system on Monday. On Saturday, 720 nurses who are members of the Illinois Nurses Association (INA) carried out their first strike in over 25 years to demand adequate staffing, decent pay and benefits. They are also demanding an end to management intimidation and overwork brought on by staffing cuts in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses voted by an overwhelming 558 to 53 to authorize the strike against one of the largest health systems in Illinois, which takes in nearly $4b in patient revenue from 19 hospitals and 230 care facilities. According to the INA, 100% of the nurses on strike voted to continue after the first day, despite 90-degree temperatures, the use of strikebreakers and hostility from management. Saint Joseph Medical Center nurses have immense support from broad sections of the working class. Workers and supporters across the state have declared their support for the nurses’ struggle, including solidarity posts from fellow health care workers, firefighters, and more. The INA, the state affiliate of the National Nurses United union, has kept striking nurses in the dark about a new contract proposal from AMITA after it was announced Monday afternoon. According to the Herald News, an INA lead negotiator stated that the proposal would not be available to members until Monday night, noting that it would likely leave the strike “unresolved.”

From the outset, AMITA proposed a three-year wage freeze at current pay levels with a $500 bonus for full-time workers and $250 for part-time workers. AMITA had since retracted the wage freeze, but nurses continued with their decision to strike. The INA originally countered with a demand for annual wage increases of 2%, 3.5% and 3.5%, barely above the rate of inflation. Instead of a sufficient guarantee of paid time off, the INA is only requesting an extended illness bank for current nurses and new hires that would allow them to receive pay for illnesses and injuries that extend beyond four days. Any deal achieved on the basis of the union’s policy of isolating the strike, appealing to corporate management and state and local Demagogs, cannot be anything more than a sellout, entirely acceptable to AMITA management. There is no way to wrench any concessions out of this giant company without mobilizing the broadest sections of the working class through the city, the state and beyond. As it has been carried out thus far, the strike has had little impact on the hospital chain. AMITA has reportedly paid over $1m to transport and house scab nurses in local hotels to keep the hospitals running and revenue flowing during the strike. Nurses can be seen shouting down the strikebreakers in videos on Facebook on the picket lines, guarded by police in order to allow the strikebreakers through. As one supporter wrote:

The AMITA hospital is willing to spend $1m on travel nurses for over 5 days and will not give you raise!! That is the message you need to get out to the general public. This is a hospital that could care less about its patients when they cannot take care of their own nurses!

There is every possibility to expand this struggle. But nurses must take the conduct of the strike out of the hands of the INA by electing a rank-and-file strike committee. Joliet is seething with class tensions creating the real possibility to break the union’s isolation of the striking nurses and unite ever broader sections of the working class. Calls for resignation of Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, a former police officer in the city, erupted after he was filmed assaulting a protester on Jun 1 during the protests against police violence that took place in the city, part of the broad protest movement of workers and youth worldwide. Largely due to the unaffordable housing costs in Chicago, over the last two decades the population of Will County, like the other counties surrounding Chicago, has grown substantially, by more than one third for Will. It has become a logistics and transportation center with an Amazon facility. In 2017, 9% of Joliet residents lived below the poverty level, compared to 7.4% in the county as a whole. To mobilize this potential support it is critical to review the role of the unions in creating the social and economic devastation in the city. In Jun 2019, Caterpillar, the global construction and heavy equipment giant, closed its Joliet plant permanently after laying off hundreds of workers. The downsizing was facilitated by the United Auto Workers (UAW), the United Steelworkers (USW) and the International Association of Machinists (IAM), which sabotaged all resistance by CAT workers. In 2012, the IAM betrayed a long and bitter three-and-a-half-month strike of more than 750 Joliet workers, preparing the way for the plant’s closure. As the Joliet nurses strike started, 500 nurses at Riverside Community Hospital in California were sent back to work Monday after a ten-day strike against HCA Health-Care over unsafe conditions and understaffing. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 121RN sent Riverside nurses back to work without attaining any of their demands.

The Joliet nurses’ strike is unfolding in a new period of class struggle brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nurses in Zimbabwe have gone on strike for the second time this year, and doctors in Sierra Leone have struck to demand bonus pay and an end to the government’s misuse of funds for the coronavirus response. In Brazil, health care professionals have been engaged in an indefinite strike since June to demand a 40% hazard bonus and adequate PPE. Hospitals and health care systems around the world are cutting pay and benefits for workers, furloughing staff due to slowdowns in other procedures and forcing workers in intensive care units (ICUs) to take on unsafe patient loads and working hours as they reach capacity because of the influx of patients admitted with the deadly COVID-19 disease. The treatment of nurses and health-care workers world-wide reveals the way the corporate elites truly view them, as expendable, rather than as “heroes.” There is more than enough money in the corporate coffers of the ruling elite to meet the demands of the health care workers. In Pindostan, the Dept of Health and Human Services gave out $72b in grants since April to some of the wealthiest hospitals and other health care providers through the misnamed CARES Act bailouts.

COVID-19 outbreak surges among Michigan farm workers in rural counties
Brent Dylan, WSWS, Jul 7 2020

Over 200 Michigan farm workers tested positive for the COVID-19 virus during the last ten days of June. The surge of positive cases among workers emerged in the three mostly rural counties of Lapeer, Branch and Oceana. A large majority of these seasonal and migrant farm workers are from Mexico and Central American countries. The outbreak in south-western Branch County occurred at Maroa Farms in Coldwater where at least 57 workers tested positive, many of whom are working under the H-2A temporary visa program. Farm workers under this program are particularly vulnerable, as they generally rely on their employers for housing, transportation to the farms, and things such as food and medical assistance. In Oceana County, along Michigan’s west coast, 67 workers at Todd Greiner Farms in Hart also tested positive for the virus. A worker at the farm explained to Michigan Radio that workers were told they would receive masks each day that had been used the day before and been washed. When the worker inquired about the safety of this practice, she was refused further work on the farm. This type of practice has no doubt been repeated thousands of times at the many farms across Pindostan. Additional reports from health officials indicate that a total of 102 farm and manufacturing workers in Oceana County have also recently tested positive, among five different facilities in the county. At least 183 positive test cases have been confirmed among farm workers in the county since May 1, traced to at least two agriculture outbreaks in the area. Health officials in Lapeer County, east of Flint, Michigan, revealed that 33 migrant workers at three different farms tested positive as well.

The outbreaks follow a steady increase in positive tests among this heavily exploited section of the working class, in both Michigan and nationally. The extent of the outbreaks are undoubtedly underreported due to lack of testing, which is often left up to the farms themselves to administer. Pero Family Farms in Benton Harbor shut down production for two weeks in April to be sanitized after positive tests, but very little information exists on the extent of infections among the workers. At least 19 migrant employees of a construction company recently tested positive after coming to Michigan to help with relief work related to recent catastrophic flooding in mid-Michigan and staying in a Bay County hotel. The spike in cases among migrant workers also comes despite an executive order by Governor Gretchen Whitmer to supposedly protect farm workers, deemed “essential workers” during the pandemic, from the threat of exposure to the coronavirus. The executive order, issued only on Jun 1 and lasting for only one month, required owners and operators of employer-provided migrant housing licensed by the Michigan Dept of Agriculture and Rural Development to create a COVID-19 response plan, provide personal protective equipment for their workers, keeping beds six feet apart at housing sites, and provide isolated housing and medical care for those who become infected. The farm employers and county health officials involved with the outbreaks claim they were complying with these orders, essentially attempting to shift the blame onto the workers themselves, implying they must have acquired the virus outside of the farm and housing facilities. The conditions facing farm workers are notoriously exploitive, and undoubtedly the driving factor in leaving workers vulnerable to conditions where they could contract the coronavirus. Most of the counties in Michigan where the coronavirus is now surging, as in many other places around the country, are in rural areas where agricultural and manufacturing work is centered.

According to the Michigan Inter-Agency Migrant Services Committee, nearly 95k migrant and seasonal workers come to the state annually. Aside from temporary immigrant workers, some farms also use domestic workers. Many often travel to Michigan from Florida and Texas, two states currently facing a resurgence of the virus. In the blueberry season, workers often come from Georgia and New Jersey, which have also been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 surge in recent weeks. 46 crops are harvested in Michigan by hand, from asparagus in April at the beginning of the season, to apples in October, when the season ends. Reports estimate that the state’s fruits and vegetables provide at least $1.4b in economic impact for the state. To carry out this work, approximately 900 migrant housing sites are licensed in the Lower Peninsula, including 4.5k living units with a capacity for 25k people, according to the Michigan Dept of Agricultural and Rural Development. There is often only 1 bathroom for every 15 people at these sites. Approximately 70% of farm workers are undocumented, according to Farmworker Justice. They are often afraid to speak up about working conditions due to fears of retaliation and possible deportation. To take one example from 2018, at Four Star Greenhouse in south-eastern Monroe County, according to a recent report on Michigan Radio, workers were reportedly working up to 70 hours per week, under difficult living conditions. When they complained about not receiving pay, they were set up in a sting operation and deported back to Mexico. Over two years later, these workers have still not received their wages for hundreds of hours of work, according to the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center.

There are also ongoing medical issues associated with farm workers that were prevalent even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many workers have preexisting medical conditions, especially older workers facing prolonged exposure to pesticides and chronic lung conditions. Obesity, diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular problems are also prevalent due to poor working and living conditions. The average life expectancy of a farm worker is only a short 49 years. This was the average general life expectancy in the US more than a century ago in 1900. According to Teresa Hendricks of Migrant Legal Aid, workers often work 90 to 100 hours a week in the peak season and do not have time to go to the doctor, which would be an even bigger problem were they to contract COVID-19. The outbreak in Michigan also reflects a broader process of abuse and exploitation involving farm workers. As the WSWS recently noted:

Farm work is an industry of abject poverty and debt, racism and sexual harassment, long hours of stoop labor in the fields, abuse from bosses, and the denial of basic labor and human rights protections. In such cruel conditions, it is impossible to imagine that any genuine care could be provided to prevent the spread of the coronavirus from a ruling state that has carved out such an inhuman existence for this underclass of laborers and is doing little to protect the working class as whole as it pushes to reopen the Pindo economy.

Farm workers also continue to be the target of the Trump administration’s war on immigrants, most recently in the denial of stimulus checks to Pindo citizens married to undocumented immigrants and the authorization of cuts in farm worker pay. To combat these conditions, it is critical that farm workers establish rank-and-file safety committees and take the fight for decent working and living conditions into their own hands. We urge farm workers to contact us, the WSWS will assist farm workers and other workers in establishing such committees.

Detroit FCA workers call on workers at GM, Ford and other companies to set up rank-and-file safety committees
Jerry White, WSWS, Jul 7 2020

Ford Dearborn Truck workers (Photo: Ford Media)

Autoworkers at Fiat Chrysler’s Jefferson North and Sterling Heights plants have urged workers in other auto plants and industries to build rank-and-file safety committees to fight the spread of coronavirus in the factories. Late last month, workers at two Detroit area assembly plants established safety committees after FCA management and the UAW refused to release information about COVID-19 cases in their plants or to take any serious measures to protect them from the deadly disease. At the Sterling Heights Assembly Plant (SHAP), workers halted production over reports that a material handler had tested positive and set up a committee. A worker said:

It was apparent that we needed rank-and-file committees because the safety of workers is being disregarded. We heard that a temporary part-time worker was put in the work area believed to be infected, and she was forced to work two hours before management even came to disinfect the area. There is no sense of urgency from the company or the UAW. All they care about is keeping the line running and producing the trucks. No workers should be literally risking their lives so the company’s numbers and profits can go up. We have to create our own safety committees opposed to the UAW and FCA, because they are aligned over the bottom line of profit. If they are organized, then we, as workers, have to organize to protect ourselves and our families.

The Detroit Free Press reported last week:

Even though GM management and the UAW are aware of many cases, including at least 22 at an assembly plant in Arlington, Tx, and another 12 at a plant in Wentzville, Mi, GM’s policy is to not confirm the number of coronavirus cases in its plants.

The same is true for FCA and other automakers, with a spox for Toyota’s Pindo automotive operations telling the WSJ:

Just announcing the number of COVID cases at a given site is not productive.

The automakers and other large employers have rejected regular testing of employees, the only means to contain the virus. According to an article by Bloomberg News titled “Employers Find Testing Employees More Trouble Than It’s Worth,” only 6% of the 40 large employers they polled are conducting on-site testing. Lauren Vela, senior director for the Pacific Business Group on Health, which represents large employers like Microsoft and Walmart, said:

Testing is not really available, feasible or easy, and it’s not a solution you can do for every employee, every day.

The UAW has also said that regular testing is not practical. Instead the UAW, whose top leaders are negotiating with the DoJ to avoid a federal takeover because of widespread corruption, including taking bribes from Fiat Chrysler management, has joined the automakers’ efforts to intimidate workers who refuse to work under unsafe conditions. Last week, the UAW issued a joint statement with FCA management suggesting that it was unsafe habits of workers outside the plants that were responsible for any infections. Nor are workers getting any aid from the federal and state OSHAs, which have received more than 20k COVID-related complaints from workers this year, but have issued only one citation, according to Bloomberg. FCA workers at Sterling Heights and the Jefferson North Assembly Plant (JNAP) in Detroit, where a safety committee has also been set up, issued a list of six demands, which they are encouraging workers at other plants to adopt and expand upon. The demands are:

  1. Workers must be immediately notified of any cases of COVID-19 and what areas were affected. This information cannot be kept secret from workers.
  2. When a case is confirmed, the factory should be closed for 24 hours for deep cleaning, not just the affected area, but the whole plant. Preventative maintenance is needed to ensure a safe and comfortable working environment.
  3. Social distancing must be implemented when entering and leaving the plant and during bathroom, lunch and other break times.
  4. The line must be stopped for 10 minutes every hour to enable workers to take off their masks, rest and cool off.
  5. Workers must have regular, universal testing. Temperature checks and self-reporting symptoms are not enough.
  6. If conditions are not safe, workers have the right to refuse to work without threat of retaliation by management and the union.

A Jefferson worker said:

Building rank-and-file safety committees is absolutely necessary. Everyone in the plant stood up and stopped work because management and the union are sweeping everything under the rug. When the plants reopened on May 18, the line started a half-hour after we arrived so we could clean our work areas, and shut down a half-hour earlier so they could be cleaned again before the next shift. Now we start 10 minutes later and work flat-out until the end of the shift. The cleaning process is almost non-existent. In their statements to the media, the company and the UAW make it sound like they are going above and beyond to protect us. That’s a lie. It’s business as usual. The union safety committee sides with management. When we protested, they union stewards were nowhere to be found. That’s why we set up our own safety committee.

Another JNAP worker said:

They can’t wait to get back to full production for their 2021 launch. The plexiglass and shower-curtains are not the cure-all. In every local union contract, the workers always said the ventilation in the plant sucks. It’s so smoky it’s like there is a fire in the plant. After every deal with the union, the company promises to repair the fans and the heating and cooling system, but nothing happens. Now we have COVID. How are they going to guarantee that the air is okay now? The full cleaning they did in April was it. Now they’re putting everything on the workers. If you catch it, it’s your fault. But we didn’t build this plant. If you look at the way the corporations work, someone did a cost-benefit analysis when they rushed to reopen the plants. How many lives of the autoworkers will it cost? How many of us have to die to build their Jeep Grand Cherokees? Now they’re saying if you don’t want to be there, you commit economic suicide, because we are going to cut you off of unemployment benefits, but if the workers get together and talk to each other, we can decide to make the adult decisions needed to save lives. They are making monetary decisions. For them the end of making profits justifies the means. But we are not human capital stock, like one of Trump’s aides said. We are not cattle. Workers care for each other. We are trying to do what is right, but they are trying to repress us. The WSWS Autoworker Newsletter is a wonderful resource to utilize so people can know what is going on and come together to protect ourselves.

A worker at FCA Trenton Engine plant, just south of Detroit, added:

They made us think we were going to be safe when we came back into the plant. But they’re not sanitizing or social-distancing, and it is frightening. Workers need breaks to remove their masks, but all the company wants is for you to work harder and harder. The union is not standing up for us. They are on management’s side. We need a committee of our own to stand up for ourselves. Workers in all the industries are experiencing this. We need a voice of our own.

A Ford worker at the Dearborn Truck Plant said:

Because large numbers of workers have called off out of concerns over COVID-19, management claims it does not have enough relief workers to fill in when an individual worker needs to take a bathroom break. Instead, they are carrying out ‘mass relief,’ with everybody taking the break at the same time. There is no way to social distance that way. We have to take control over our own safety. We are the ones whose priority is safety. We will not take risks for extra profits. Autoworkers need to link up with workers in other industries in Pindostan and internationally. We should just stop production if there is an infection in the plant. We don’t know where that infected worker may have been.
When we are in charge of safety we will say: no work until the safety committee deems it safe.

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