The Best of Times and the Worst of Times

Whether we’re in the public sector or private sector, no matter who we work for, all workers are pitted against each other. Those who don’t have jobs versus those who do, part-time or temp workers versus full-time workers, those with low pay versus those with even less. Any opportunity to further divide workers, to keep us isolated separate corners, is just another way for the bosses to try and take advantage of us.

We’ve seen the same pattern happen over and over again in every industry. Whenever profitable companies want even more profit, they just throw some more people out of work and pay fewer workers less to do even more. The bosses preach the same sob story about keeping up with the competition, cut our wages, benefits, and staffing, and then turn around and make record profits.

And what’s true in the private sector is true in the public sector too. At the Federal and State level, governments pretend there is no money coming in, and then pass budgets with huge cuts to workers and social services. But at the same time, governments are regularly making payments to the biggest banks and cutting taxes for corporations and the rich. The Federal government recently announced severe cuts to postal workers, with massive layoffs, huge cuts to hours and closures to hundreds of facilities. And now further deep cuts to Medicare and welfare and Social Security are next in line for the chopping block. States have attacked public workers across the country, introduced legislation to weaken public unions, slashed funding for schools and social services, and brutally attacked teachers, in-home care professionals, childcare workers, state workers and more.

At the same time, cities everywhere are playing the same game, using their own budget woes to go after workers, cutting pay, slashing retirement, laying off workers, closing fire stations, libraries and schools, and cutting many services. Some cities have gone bankrupt trying to keep up with debt payments to the banks, like Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernardino. With each new budget that passes, public workers are laid off and wages and benefits are cut. The city of Scranton, Pennsylvania slashed pay for public workers by 70 percent, bringing down wages to $7.25 and hour.

And everywhere, we’re hearing the same lies and manipulation from the bosses and their politicians. We’re continuously told that workers are the source of the problems, that if it weren’t for overpaid workers, the government would have more money and corporations would make more profit. They want us to believe that our wages are too high, our benefits too good, and our sick-time too generous.  We’re told public workers are overpaid as opposed to everyone else is underpaid. They want us to wonder why anyone should have retirements when most people are only a paycheck away from losing it all. For the bosses, all workers are in a race to the bottom to see who can have it the worst. And then the icing on the cake is, after all the cutbacks, we’re told that we should be lucky if we even have a job.

Meanwhile, corporations and the rich have never been wealthier. Corporate profits have been breaking records the last three years in a row and CEO pay and bonuses are back at record highs. Taxes for the super wealthy haven’t been lower in decades while income inequality has never been higher. And after trillions in bailouts, billions in profits and millions in tax breaks, the rich have never had it better.

There is no coincidence here. This massive increase in wealth is the direct result in the decrease of our quality of life. For us, the misery has only increased as we search for jobs that don’t exist, struggle with bills and the rent, and worry about not having a place to live. We hope that our jobs aren’t next in line to be cut as the fear of being next hangs over our heads daily.

The bosses think they have workers right where they want us – divided, pitted against each other, willing to give up more in fear of losing it all. As workers struggle through some of the hardest times – the bosses and the rich are having the time of their lives.