US Railroad Strike: What's at Stake, How We Got Here & Why NOW is the time for Solidarity (featuring RWU)

This pre-strike discussion with railroad workers examines the history of US railroads, railroad labor, the impacts of deregulation and an industry unconstrained in its obsession with increasing short term profits, without accountability to its workers, the public or its own future. Railroad workers share their stories about declining morale, punitive work environments, with inhumane conditions that endanger workers, communities and the environment.
Railroad workers may opt to go on strike at any time on or after September 16th, when the latest "cooling off" period proscribed by the Railway Labor Act expires.
Solutionary Rail convened a call with railroad workers Ron Kaminkow and Michael Paul Lindsey to learn more about the impossible working conditions they have to wrestle with, and how we can be in solidarity with them. 

Please sign the letter of Solidarity at SolutionaryRail.org/Solidarity2022

This interview begins with Solutionary Rail co-author and campaign director Bill Moyer briefly outlining the regulatory and deregulatory history of US railroads. The railroad workers expand on that with insights into the history of railroad labor, as well as a frontline perspective on the impacts of Wall Street greed wringing out the capacity and resilience of the physical infrastructure and the workforce it depends upon.

The workers describe what led them to this precipice of a potentially historic strike. They share their frustrations about the conditions and expectations of their jobs, the impacts of having to do ever more with less. They explain the flight of rail workers from what were once coveted careers. They make it crystal clear that without improvements to quality of work life for railroad workers, there will be no deal worth making or keeping.

The wage increase proposed by Biden's Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) left key issues unaddressed. The wage increase, when examined for what it is, is a series of small cost of living increases that neither keeps up with inflation nor addresses the expenses these workers incur on the job with each trip away and back to their base. The PEB allows the railroad corporations that have been generous with stockholder dividends and buybacks, to force the workers to pay more for their health insurance. The PEB rejected or ignored worker calls for an end to draconian attendance policies, for more flexibility for sick leave and bereavement, and for their desperate desire to have predictable time off for adequate rest and all the normal activities most people take for granted.

The theme of chronic fatigue and how it endangers everyone, along with the corporate railroads' push for single person crews on ever longer trains, should inspire concern for public safety as well as compassion for these workers. They are the canaries in the coalmine of our supply chain. It is clear that merely forcing railroad workers back to work, or buying them off with short term bonuses could result in a far more serious crisis, an exodus of workers in an industry already stretched to the brink. This interview explores roots of solidarity and connects the dots between impacts on all sorts of workers across the country, impacted by a supply chain that has been shaped to maximize profit for a few while the communities, workers and environment pay the true cost of unaccountable and insatiable greed.

Whether you care about family farms, breathable urban air, fair wages and good jobs, infrastructure resilience, or climate change, there is ample reason for solidarity and and common cause with these frontline workers, upon whom we all rely.

Again, please sign the letter of Solidarity at SolutionaryRail.org/Solidarity2022


LINKS referenced in the video and other resources:

Sign-on Solidarity Letter:
https://www.solutionaryrail.org/solidarity2022

Railroad Workers United:
https://www.railroadworkersunited.org

Railroad Workers weekly headlines:
https://www.railroadworkersunited.org/rwu-weekly-rail-news-headlines

RWU Survey Results:
https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Survey-Results--Rail-Workers-and-the-PEB.html?soid=1116509035139&aid=Xy_EoF8yZ90

RWU Survey Report PDF:
https://files.constantcontact.com/38adf15f301/57e63b83-ffbe-4dc1-9ef3-61840119db10.pdf

RR Strike Resolution:
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/505b96a8c4aa40a37a143c49/t/61e1079cbcbdef55bd6b2c61/1642137500456/RWU+Resolution+on+National+Rail+Strike+FINAL.pdf

PEB Summary:
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/505b96a8c4aa40a37a143c49/t/62fe6a5ecd4eef5e186c0396/1660840544037/PEB+Board+Article+from+RWU+-+FINAL.pdf

IMPORTANT article on the Right to Strike and the 13th Amendment protection against forced labor/servitude:
https://jacobin.com/2022/09/railroad-workers-unions-strikes-peb-law

Article on Safety issue by Thomas White:
https://climaterailalliance.org/2022/09/14/strike/

Explainer at Daily Kos about the possible strike:
Good article on why railroaders are fed up at this point.

GAO - Long Trains study:
https://www.gao.gov/assets/gao-19-443.pdf

GREAT background article: How America's Supply Chains Got Railroaded
https://prospect.org/economy/how-americas-supply-chains-got-railroaded/

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