Over the weekend, Mallickrodt workers at the Hyde Park plant rejected a contract offer from parent company Tyco International Ltd. Plant managers locked the 430 workers out on Friday, and now the workers are picketing the plant.
The issues? Tyco wants to eliminate pensions for new workers, limit personal and sick days (without changing the nature of work at the plant, which is physically and mentally demanding) and an end to overtime pay for working Sundays. In short, Tyco wants to destroy any pretense that it cares about its workers' health or well-being, and wants to renege on its obligation to adequately compensate workers. What Tyco is doing is not uncommon, as even the City of St. Louis is mulling over various pension elimination plans for public employees. Pensions are disappearing for labor-intensive and often demeaning work that big businessmen would never do themselves; exploitation, once an implied tenet of the employee/employer relationship, is now a naked fact that is practically legal.
Our nation is wealthier than it ever has been, and St. Louis is seeing unprecedented investment. Now should be the time to do what is right, but instead business and government leaders are greedier than ever. Rather than share the abundance, these people want more of it than they did when wealth was scarce. Capital is in a truly decadent mode in the world, with profit -- not products -- as the only goal of businessmen. Our society is suffering because of their pursuits, and as a result is rapidly becoming one in which fear, hatred and self-destruction are becoming widespread tendencies of those being left behind (most of us, really).
While the Mallinckrodt workers' strike is laudable, one wonders who will come to their aide. Laborers -- I'm not talking about unions -- have no friends at City Hall, in Jefferson City or in Washington, D.C. Local alderman-turned-Congressman Dick Gephardt, a supposed labor hero, is now an international trade law advisor to one of the richest trial law firms in the country. However, the politicians and businessmen may not get the last laugh: a struggle that cannot be carried out through sanctioned political means just may find another way of carrying itself out.