By BD of M1 Michigan Collective
Dayton, Ohio is a small city, a former manufacturing center, in southern Ohio, about 40 miles west of Cincinnati. Like many former manufacturing centers in the midwest, Dayton now has a 35% poverty rate. Dayton was an aviation center, home of the Wright brothers and Wright-Patterson Air Force base. It was a center of auto manufacturing with General Motors assembly and parts plants. And it was the home of National Cash Register (NCR). Like Flint and Detroit and Youngstown and Akron and Gary, much of what people say about Dayton is in the past tense; what it was.
In 1960, Dayton had a population of 262,000 and about 80,000 decent paying, union jobs. Dayton and the jobs there made the city a destination for Black people moving up from the south and white people moving up from Appalachia. But today, the population is about 140,000; most of the good, union jobs are long gone. The city is about 50% white and 40% Black, but it has been hollowed out. Folks with better jobs and incomes moved out of the city to suburbs, and some moved on to other cities and regions. Like many other rustbelt cities, folks are left with low wage, nonunion jobs. Many work part time at two or more jobs. And many who work full time don’t have benefits and don’t make enough to pay rent and the rest of the bills.
In the fall of 2018, PBS did a Frontline special on Dayton and on people and families in Dayton. There is an interview with a Black couple, with six children. Both work, and they only recently have been able to move out of a homeless shelter and move into public housing. They do not make enough, with both working, to pay rent and bills and buy food. It is a scramble for survival and a downward spiral. They are doing worse than their parents did.
This family lives in West Dayton, which has 40% of the city’s population, is majority Black and has no grocery stores. West Dayton is a food desert. It has Burger King and McDonalds.
The late 1970s and early 1980s were a turning point in Dayton and other manufacturing centers in the midwest. Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers Union, and corporations moved to attack unions or decertify unions or prevent unionization or move to the south or to other countries or to use the threat of the same to force concessions on unions and communities. This was also the period of tax cuts for the wealthy and deregulation of industries and businesses. Hundreds of thousands of union jobs with decent pay and benefits in auto, steel, rubber and other industries were lost and have not returned.
The attacks on the working class continued through the 1990s and the 2000s. Worldwide, the capitalists continued and intensified the turn to neoliberalism, attacks on unions, attacks on regulations and limitations, attacks on the reforms and gains that the working class had fought for from the 1930s on. From 2001 to 2007, Dayton lost 23,000 jobs or 1 in 3 manufacturing jobs gone. In 2008, GM closed the Moraine Assembly plant in Dayton, costing 2000 UAW jobs which had paid about $35 an hour. The meltdown intensified and continued through the economic crash in 2008. In 2009, National Cash Register left Dayton and moved to Atlanta, meaning more jobs lost forever.
For workers in Dayton and elsewhere across the country, the past 20 years have been a period of job losses, wage stagnation/decline and benefit cuts. In urban areas like Dayton and across the area and the region, public schools have been under attack, health care has become unaffordable for many and the pay and benefits in available jobs are nowhere near what was available just a few years ago.
And in the midst of this distress and crisis, the big pharmaceutical companies, Big Pharma, made the decision to release and flood the markets with new opioids, with Oxycontin, with prescription painkillers which were highly addictive. The result for people in Dayton and many other areas has been high rates of opioid addiction and huge increases in the number of overdose deaths. In Ohio, there were 10,000 overdose deaths in one year. Big profits for Big Pharma. Addiction and overdose deaths for people in Dayton and across the country.
Dayton has lost half its population and most of its good paying jobs in the past few decades. There has been some increase in immigrants, primarily from Turkey, moving into Dayton. And a Chinese billionaire glass manufacturer bought the former GM Moraine Plant. Fuyao Glass America now produces glass for the auto industry at the plant. One worker there makes $12 per hour. In 2008, the same worker made $35 per hour in the same plant when it was GM Moraine. This worker, who happens to be white, tells us what has happened to workers in Dayton and other cities and areas in the past ten years: from $35 an hour to $12 an hour. Our wages, the wages for workers in Dayton and in Detroit and Flint and Youngstown and Akron and elsewhere are now one-third of what they were just a few years ago.
The owner of the glass plant in Dayton makes it clear that it’s not the comparison with the UAW jobs at GM from a few years ago, it’s the comparison to wages paid to workers in Mexico or Japan or China that’s important now. In other words, workers in Dayton and the U.S., Black, white, Latinx, Muslim or whatever, are in competition with workers in Mexico and China. And the capitalists whether from the U.S. or China or wherever have no interest in what wages used to be in Dayton, they are interested in paying wages low enough to be competitive with low wage workers in other countries.
For all workers in Dayton and for all of us in this country and beyond the present and the future is lower pay, less job security and few or no benefits. The present and the future for a family is two people working and not making enough to pay the bills and keep a roof and pay for food. Even where both people work, as with the young white couple in the special, families must go to food pantries to get free groceries in order to feed their families. This is Dayton. This is everywhere now. And it’s true for all sections of the working class: white, Black, Latinx, immigrant, Muslim, all of us.
When you make $10 or $12 an hour, it’s not enough to live on. When you have no benefits from the job, you don’t make enough to afford medical insurance or proper health care. We have to scrimp, most all of us, on medicines, medical care, housing, food and so on. This is the capitalist system in Dayton and beyond.
In this context, the Klan comes to Dayton and calls on white workers and white people to turn their anger on Black people or immigrants or Jews or Muslims. But Black people or immigrants or Muslims or Jews did not cause the union jobs to leave, did not cause the opioid crisis, did not cause low wages and no benefits. Don’t be a traitor to the working class. The capitalist class and their agents and apologists are responsible for the attacks on unions and the working class and our living standards.
There is only one way forward and that’s a united, working class response to the attacks of the capitalists and the fascists and the cops and the state. The capitalists and the fascists and the police and the state target Black people and the Black community. The police run roughshod. And when the police attack, it’s always because the Black person was violent or a criminal or dangerous or whatever. That’s the narrative. It never ends. That’s the American system.
And the same forces: the fascists, the white supremacists, the cops and the state focus on Muslims and immigrants and Latinx people and communities as the danger or being criminal or dangerous or whatever. And that’s the narrative. It’s right to keep international workers, immigrant workers in detention centers or concentration camps because they are dangerous. If children die in the custody of Border Patrol that’s because the parents didn’t care for them or they were sick anyway or whatever.
And when all these official narratives result in armed attacks on synagogues or mosques or Black churches then it must be mental health problems. The rulers don’t want to admit that the rules of white supremacy and violence against people who are not white come from the top, come from this system and that violence and bigotry and brutality and murder comes right on down to the Klan and the fascists and the cops.
But a united, working class response to these attacks is not automatic and it’s not free. It means a change in consciousness among many workers, a change in consciousness in our communities. For white workers, in particular, it’s not enough to say “we’re all in this together now.” When the Klan comes to Dayton, it’s not enough for white workers to say “we don’t agree with the Klan.” The way forward now is for the entire working class to unite to oppose the Klan and to defend communities under attack. This means white workers need to come out on May 25th to oppose the Klan in Dayton and to unite with the communities the Klan threatens and attacks.
The road to a united working class response to the capitalist attacks requires a united working class defense of communities under attack. That means all of us: Black, white, Latinx and so on come out together and unite our forces to oppose the Klan and defend communities under attack. And when the government and the anti-immigrant bigots, attack and threaten Latinx communities and immigrant communities, this means all of us: Black, white, Latinx and so on come out together and unite our forces and defend against and oppose the attacks by ICE and Border Patrol and the federal government and anti-immigrant vigilantes on immigrant workers and undocumented workers.
There are no shortcuts. Working class solidarity, working class consciousness and working class unity is built through struggle, through fighting together against attacks, through uniting our forces in actual practice, in actual defense of communities under attack.
Black Lives Matter Miami Valley is, with other organizations, mobilizing to oppose the Klan in Dayton on May 25th. We urge that all workers and all working class communities join in this mobilization and come out to oppose the Klan in Dayton on May 25th. The Klan threatens and has a brutal history of attacking Black people and the Black community.
This Klan group from Indiana is coming to Dayton and claims it’s invited by supporters in Dayton. The Klan group also posts a Trump banner next to its call for this racist, white nationalist event. The effort here is to argue that white people, as white people, are somehow victims or under threat by Black people, or immigrants or Muslims or whomever. Here is a central lie of the Klan and the fascists and white nationalists and white supremacists. White people are nowhere under attack for being white people. White people are under attack as workers and poor people, as part of the working class, and on the receiving end of the ruling class attacks on the working class.
But the Klan calls for attacks on Black people. Real attacks on Black people, real murders and lynchings and bombings and fires. Black people are subject to specific attacks by the Klan or the police or the courts or the system because they are Black people. White people nowhere face these kinds of attacks based on being white. Anti-Blackness is central to the American system and the capitalist system and the system of imperialism and colonialism. To defeat the attacks on the working class, to defeat this system, then all workers must unite to defeat Anti-Blackness, to defeat white supremacy which is central to the functioning of the U.S. system, of the capitalist system, worldwide.
The working class in the United States and beyond must refuse any longer to be divided by anti-Blackness, by white supremacy. The only way forward now is for a united, working class defense of communities under attack. When the attacks are directed against Black communities or Latinx communities or immigrants or Muslims or Jews, we organize a united, working class response to defend against and oppose these attacks. Through these united struggles we lay the foundation for a united, working class revolution to destroy white supremacy and the capitalist system, once and for all.