Unleash the democratic strength and unity of the masses of workers
No one can deny or conceal the fact that the wages of millions of workers, ordinary employees and toiling masses are grossly insufficient in the face of spiraling prices of food, fuel and other basic needs of the people. This is the reason why a number of proposals have been filed before the senate, the lower house and various agencies of the reactionary bureaucracy, to raise wages and other measures to alleviate the people’s sufferings. It is fine that many have expressed support for the welfare of workers and toiling people, but what is more crucial is to amplify and listen to the voice of the united workers themselves, to their needs and demands.
Among the proposals are the ₱150 across-the-board wage increase bill being pushed by Senate Pres. Juan Miguel Zubiri, the bill to set the national minimum wage at ₱750 a day, along with the proposal to abrogate the “wage regionalization” law at bring back the national minimum wage standard. There are, in addition, various proposals to increase the daily minimum wage by ₱75 to ₱220 submitted before the regional wage boards.
All these proposals reflect various estimations of the true value of the labor-power of workers, or the cost of necessities for himself and his family (what Marx referred to as the cost for reproducing workers and the working class). These more or less corresponds to various standards such as the “poverty threshold” which is set by the reactionary state at a very low P8,500 monthly (or P283 per day). This is far below the P33,000 monthly (or ₱1,100 per day) “family-living wage” estimates of the group Ibon which calculates the daily cost of living of a family of five.
Any of these proposals for raising workers’ wages will bring a small or substantial alleviation to the daily sufferings of workers and toiling people. What is crucial is to understand that whatever wage increase will be won not through the good-heartedness of politicians, but through the strength and unity of the masses of workers. If workers and toiling people will rely on the bureaucrat capitalist-controlled senate and congress, they will most certainly be sold short, with any granting of wage increases used to disunite and pacify them.
The interests of big capitalists and pro-capitalist state fundamentally contradict the demand the workers and ordinary employees for wage increases. Each additional peso that a worker can bring home is one peso taken from the profit being pocketed by capitalists. Philippine cheap labor is being used by the Marcos regime mainly to attract foreign capitalist investors to the Philippines to plunder the country’s resources. The struggle for higher wages is at the core of the class struggle between workers and capitalists. This is an assertion of a bigger share in the value being created by workers daily as they sell their labor-power to the capitalists.
Capitalists and bourgeois economists propagate various false and twisted reasoning to weaken the workers resolve to struggle for wage increases. They insist that increasing wages is inflationary, even as the capitalists’ greed for bigger profits is the real reason why prices have been going up. Big capitalists also argue that small businesses will go bankrupt if wages are increased, to conceal the reality that billionaire big capitalists rake in large amounts of profits in connivance with foreign capital.
Whether wage increases will be substantial or mere consolation for workers depend on their strength and determination to fight for their interests and rights. History has proved that they can win a bigger amount of wage increases if they can manifest their unity by rising as one body and with tens or hundreds of thousands of workers militantly taking the streets, instead of being disunited and discordant.
It is right that the masses of workers come up with a common demand for wage increases in order that they can more effectively negotiate with the state and the capitalists. It will be to their favor that various organizations of workers unite on the amount of wage increases which they are ready to fight for. This is not enough however. More than this, the broad masses of workers must themselves unite by strengthening democracy among their ranks, by bringing together their thoughts, raising their readiness and determination to fight collectively, and on this basis, bringing them together under a common slogan. If the broad unity of workers cannot be built, they would likely not last long in their fight.
Democracy must be strengthened among the masses of workers by thoroughly consolidating and building their unions and various organizations in factories, workplaces and communities. A propaganda, education and cultural movement must be tirelessly carried out. We must multiply the number and scale of broad assemblies and consultations to serve as a forum for workers and their families to express their grievances, to serve as schools to raise their knowledge and class consciousness as workers, and as means to strengthen their collective will to fight.
Democracy among workers is the key to unleashing working class militance and energy in fighting for their just demands for wage increases. This will also be a key factor in comprehensively strengthening the revolutionary workers movement, alongside the people’s resistance against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism, and carrying forward the national democratic movement.