US Navy: strikebreaker
On July 23, striking Steelworkers from Newport News Navy shipyard in Virginia, supported by members of other unions and community groups converged on Washington to spotlight the role of the US Navy in strikebreaking and fostering racial inequality in the military shipbuilding industry. The strikers marched to a rally on the steps of the Capitol. Workers at Newport News, which exclusively builds or refits ships for the US Navy, have been on strike since April 5 to protest against the company's violations of US federal labour laws and to improve their wages and conditions. Like the other three military shipyards in the US South — Ingalls, Avondale and Norshipco — Newport News has a largely black workforce. Workers at the two Northern shipyards — Electric Boat and Bath Iron Works — enjoy substantially better wages and benefits than the workers in the Southern shipyards. The largely African American workforce in the Virginia shipyard ends up with pensions only half those of their mostly white counterparts in the Navy shipyards in the North, for doing the same work. The workers are members of the United Steelworkers of America (USWA) which is standing up to this issue on the basis of class solidarity. The USWA recognises that racism is not only unjust, it's also a corporate strategy for dividing worker from worker. Navy strikebreaking The striking steelworkers have been angered by the Navy's financial support for the company's efforts to break the strike by employing scabs. This is not the first time the US Navy has reimbursed shipyard managements for their efforts to either break a union or break a strike. The Navy has also given the company new work in spite of the fact that the shipyard has missed three major deadlines because of work being done by inexperienced scab labour. It's hardly surprising that the Navy would be acting as a strikebreaker in Virginia. US corporations rely on the military to oppose the rights of working people around the world. The US Army School of the Americas (SOA) in Fort Benning, Georgia, trains the worst human rights abusers in the hemisphere. Among the victims of the SOA's graduates are thousands of unionists who were disappeared, tortured and murdered in countries throughout Latin America. US military aid has backed dictatorial, anti-union regimes in Indonesia, Central America and many other countries. Corporate Southern tactic Global corporate strategy is to roll back the gains that working people have made and bust the unions which empowered them to make those gains. In the US, the corporate tactic has been to shift production out of the industrialised and unionised Northern states and into the Southern states, where anti-union "right-to-work" (for less) laws prevail. The corporations are looking for low-wage, anti-union havens in the South. Their move to the South also is part of the tactic of playing workers in different parts of the country against each other, to compete for jobs in a downward spiral of wages and conditions. Steelworkers' solidarity struggles Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the USWA has been in the forefront of US and Canadian unions showing active solidarity with independent union struggles in Mexico. The steelworkers understand that one of the best ways to protect their own future is to stand in solidarity with workers in other countries. The decline of the US steel industry is but one of many corporate-driven changes in the global economy — changes which routinely maximise profits at the expense of working people.