Workers Must Assert Their Collective Rights

October 21, 2012

The trend of governmental offensives against unions and the rights of workers is continuing.

Several states have passed laws prohibiting unions from bargaining over certain issues (such as barring teachers' unions from bargaining over class size), prohibiting union shop or "fair share" contracts, further restricting the right to strike, etc. The National Labor Relations Board, as well as state labor boards, are implementing regulations that often make it all but impossible for a union to gain legal recognition.

Of course such laws are direct attacks against the basic democratic right of freedom of association. In these cases, the government is zeroing in on the right of workers to assert themselves as a collective. Unions are not only a necessary part of the workers' economic struggle to limit the degree of exploitation, but also vital organizations which enable workers to concentrate themselves as a social force and assert their class interests. The "logic" of the capitalist government is that whenever the workers band together and take action to assert their rights as a class, they are interfering with the so-called "free market." In other words, the capitalists insist that the only function of society and government is to protect the "individual rights" (the power and privilege) of the private owners of society's means of production – of the capitalist class. The aim of the capitalists is to reduce every worker to an individual wage-slave with no capacity to resist his/her exploitation.

But the collective interests and rights of the workers arise as an objective fact of modern society. The workers are the laboring class who through their cooperative efforts produce all the material blessings. The workers also constitute the majority of society which must have the decisive say in determining their own social environment.

Thus, since the very emergence of capitalism, workers have recognized that they have no way forward except by coming out together and asserting their collective rights and interests. The workers in a particular factory or particular industry have the common interests to organize themselves in a union and come out together in the immediate struggle for higher wages and better working conditions. Workers throughout the country have the need to come out together and assert their general class interests through the political struggle against the capitalist class.

In fact, in order for our country to progress it is necessary that all the collective rights of the workers – as well as the collective rights of other groups such as women, national minorities, youth, etc. – be recognized in law and guaranteed in practice. For example, workers must not only have the inviolable right to organize themselves in unions but must also be guaranteed such rights as the right to a secure livelihood, to wages commensurate with our country's high degree of development, to a safe workplace, etc.

The struggle to guarantee the rights of various collectives is a struggle against the power and privilege of the monopoly capitalist class which seeks to subordinate everything to its narrow self-interest of profit and domination. It is a struggle which can only achieve complete victory when not only the rights of collectives but the right of the whole people to determine the character of society is realized in practice.