What We Want

WE WANT a society where we the people, the workers who produce society’s wealth and who make everything possible, control our own lives. There are many major crises we face today — global economic chaos, our planet is being destroyed, wars and militarism, and rising inequality and poverty around the world. We have to begin, however, with ourselves. The root cause of these problems, and the most fundamental problem for working people here in the United States is that we have lost control, not only over our government and over U.S.-based corporations and institutions, but over our very lives. The only solution is for all of us who work — either in paid jobs, or in our homes, or in other places like schools — to organize to take back control. While recognizing our differences, we have to come together around what we have in common, to transform the existing system according to our collective needs and interests as working people.

WE WANT the right to control our time, beginning with the right a 40-hour workweek at a living wage for all– whether we are currently overworked, underemployed, unemployed or working at raising children or doing other care-taking in the home. Working people of all different backgrounds and income levels are being overworked and have lost control over their lives. While some are working long hours, others are excluded from any employment at all. We demand the right to 40-hours of work paid at a living wage. We demand the right to say “no” to hours beyond a 40-hour workweek and the right to have the hours we put in raising the next generation of workers in our homes compensated as part of that 40-hour workweek.

WE WANT equal rights for all workers and an end to the superexploitation of workers of color and women and the liberation of the underclass of undocumented slave labor. From the theft of these lands from native Americans and the enslavement of African peoples, through Chinese coolie contract labor and the indentured labor of Latino workers in the Bracero program, to today’s prison-industrial complex, and many other examples, the superexploitation of people of color has been the systemic root of racism and white privilege. To this day, women are superexploited in the home as caregivers, beyond whatever paid work they do at jobs. Women and people of color are often paid less for the same work compared to white workers and males as a whole. Continuing the ugly history of racism and slavery in a modern-day form, in 1986 the government created, for the first time, the category of “undocumented worker,” a criminalized underclass of labor that can be superexploited. All of this superexploitation pits worker against worker, driving down conditions for all. We demand an end to all forms of superexploitation and equal rights for all workers, including the abolition of the category “undocumented worker” and a process for the adjustment of status for all immigrant workers. We oppose all forms of homophobia and prejudice that divide working people.

WE WANT an end to sweatshop conditions. Sweatshop conditions such as long hours have spread to all sectors of our economy, both blue- and white-collar, right here in the United States. The only solution is for workers themselves to stand up against these conditions. Unscrupulous employers who refuse to change when confronted must be punished. To give just one example, the boss of Saigon Grill restaurant, Simon Ngyet, was thrown in jail as a result of workers’ organizing to assert their rights. To give another example, in the precedent-setting case of New Silver Palace restaurant, individual board members of the restaurant were held liable for stolen wages and tips. We need stronger policies and legislation to defend workers rights and punish law-breaking employers.

WE WANT an end to the sweatshop system. We demand an end to the sweating system, where large firms use subcontracting to exploit workers under brutal conditions. We are fighting for retailer and manufacturer accountability in the garment industry and have strengthened legislation and policies on the city, state, and federal level. This will have an impact on other industries, such as construction, cleaning, and even office temping, for example, where contracting out and subcontracting allows large firms to exploit workers under harsh conditions.

WE WANT control over our health. We need more than just access to health coverage. Even when access to healthcare is supposedly guaranteed, under the workers’ compensation system, for example, workers’ lack control over the decisions regarding their care and are often denied the care that they need. We have called for the overhaul of the Workers’ Compensation system in New York State and have addressed Congressional hearings and introduced legislation to address problems of injured workers whose health is being destroyed by long hours and unsafe conditions. We also led a successful fight for the creation of 9-11 health programs that have built-in community input from all workers and residents affected by 9-11 toxic air. We’ve fought for and won special clinics to address the toxic air in nail salons. We continue to fight for more accountability and control over the institutions that affect our health.

WE DEMAND an end to the racist diplacement of people of color. We want control over plans that affect our communities, at all levels of government. Plans that affect our communities should start from our communities, where we live and work, and should be developed from the bottom up according to the needs of working people, locally and in general. For example, in opposition to Mayor Bloomberg’s racist displacement agenda for communities across New York City, we’re developing an alternative plan for Community Board 3, and building a city-wide movement to encourage other communities to organize from the bottom up to build a united front against racist displacement.

WE WANT control over our own culture. We want an end to the culture of narrow individualism, cut-throat competition, elitism, racism, sexism, greed and division. Together, through our own arts, music, theater and dance, literature and poetry, and by struggling together and finding common ground in the fight to control our lives, and by celebrating our gains in that fight, we are creating a new culture that promotes the needs and potential of human beings as its highest priority.