Job cutting continues in the new year across a wide range of economic sectors in the US. Layoff announcements so far in January appear to follow last month’s trend, in which planned firings rose 31 percent over previous year figures. According to Chicago-based Challenger, Gray & Christmas, job cuts rose to 41,785 in December, up from 32,004 in December 2010.
While the Labor Department said US non-farm payrolls registered a net increase of 200,000 jobs last month, the largest since April, economists estimate that at such a pace the US will not return to its pre-recession unemployment rate until the end of the decade. Long-term unemployment remains entrenched, with some 5.6 million officially counted as jobless for more than six months.
Cooper Tire workers in Findlay, Ohio talked to the World Socialist Web Site this week about the issues raised by their struggle. The fight by 1,050 tire workers against the wage-cutting demands of the multinational corporation has entered is seventh week.
The corporation has refused to return to the bargaining table and has bussed in strikebreakers from North Carolina and other states to continue production. Meanwhile, security guards are maintaining round-the-clock video surveillance of picketers, and two workers have been framed up on misdemeanor charges of “menacing” a strikebreaker. City officials have also torn down signs supporting the locked out workers, claiming they violate an ordinance.
Meanwhile, the contract covering 1,500 workers at the company’s only other unionized plant in the US—in Texarkana, Arkansas—is expiring January 20. Although workers voted overwhelming for strike action, the United Steelworkers (USW) has rejected any joint struggle by workers, and has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to accept further concessions.
“Our fate is bound up with the Texarkana workers,” said Rob Gussard, a young worker. “In ’05 they struck for a month. Then the company reopened the five-year agreement in ’08 to see where they would get the deepest cuts. Now they want us to sign a blank check and make us take concessions that are even worse than in ’08.”