railroad workers strike?

Dayne Goodwin

Majority of Rail Labor Now Opposes Tentative Contract
Railroad Operating Crafts Vote Results Mixed: National Strike Still Possible
Railroad Workers United, press release, Nov. 21

Dayne Goodwin

Working (and Striking) on the Railroad
by Eve Ottenberg, CounterPunch, November 11,
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Even worse, Maryland Dem congressman Steny Hoyer already quite high-handedly laid out his repellent position on this matter, when he threatened workers with passing legislation to ban them from striking, which, as the publication the Lever noted, could violate international labor law. Labor secretary Walsh’s ominous remark that congress, with Neanderthals like Hoyer in it, might become involved, aligns with Hoyer’s threat. Kind of a “good cop/bad cop” ploy. Walsh’s comments also synchronize with the Association of American Railroads, which said “it is counting on congress to act, if new deals can’t be reached.” ...

So let’s try to ignore for now let-them-eat-cake threats like Hoyer’s and see what rail workers are so upset about. I’ll tell you what they’re upset about: five railroad conglomerate ceos grabbed over $200 million in the past three years, while since 2010 these same railroads stuffed the pockets of their executives and stockholders with $196 billion in stock buybacks and dividends. With a bonanza like this, the Hoyers and Bidens of the world will struggle to convince railroad rank and file that they don’t deserve more than what the stingy contract they voted against offers, namely, one measly paid sick day per year.

This corporate refusal to offer sick leave bespeaks the dictatorial nature of capital, which seeks above all total control over its workers, a complete domination that nonetheless reveals a certain insecurity at the top, where permitting more than one sick day is seen as a threat – too much freedom for labor. ...
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Meanwhile “a potential showdown between organized labor and Wall Street looms over the world of freight trains,” reported Truthout October 22. This article mentions an “influential railroad workers group” calling on fellow union members not only to reject the contract, but “to fight for public ownership of railroads.”

This group, Railroad Workers United (RWU), wants a better contract than the one on offer. Truthout quoted RWU member Ross Grooters that “rail workers are facing off against billion-dollar companies that run one of the most profitable industries in the nation.” Grooters argues that “Highways, inland waterways, seaports and airports are all in public hands.” Railroads should be too. Fox news editorialized November 7 that this is socialism. Well then, we already have socialism and it works fine for waterways, seaports and airports. Really, why not railroads? They might well run better and serve the supply chain better, if they were public.

Taking the railroads public might well require an act of congress, Truthout reports. It is a radical move, of the sort Biden famously shies away from. And it would certainly need Biden’s support. But what better way for this president, eager to wear FDR’s mantle, to prove that he really deserves it? If that’s too big an ask, however, maybe Biden or his labor secretary can prove they really are friends of the unions by muscling those rail freight corporations into offering more than one paid sick day. And no, that doesn’t mean two.
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