Why Workers Are Up in Arms Over the Biden Rail Strike Intervention

Yves here. I don’t think enough bad can be said about Biden rail strike cramdown. When you translate the justification of 1%ers like Biden and Pelosi, they amount to “Essential workers must suffer because donor profits”. This is just a restatement of Lambert’s first two principles of neoliberalism:

1. Because markets

2. Go die

It’s also noteworthy that some unions are speaking out about the deal. But that’s all they are willing to do is grumble. After tolerating Democratic party sellouts for decades, this betrayal should come as no surprise.

By Sonali Kolhatkar, an award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her forthcoming book is Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute and the racial justice and civil liberties editor at Yes! Magazine. She serves as the co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization the Afghan Women’s Mission and is a co-author of Bleeding Afghanistan. She also sits on the board of directors of Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization. Produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute

The United States Senate acted in a show of rare unity recently in voting 80 to 15 to pass a bill forcing rail workers to accept their employers’ contract offer without a strike. There was no such unity to pass an amendment introduced by Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have given rail workers seven paid sick leave days. That bill did not pass even though 52 senators voted for it, as it failed the requisite 60-vote threshold.

According to the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, “Almost every elected member of Congress campaigns on being ‘for the working class.’” But, in response to the failure to pass the sick leave amendment, the Brotherhood pointed out that Congress’s actions “demonstrated they are for the corporate class.”

The Brotherhood is among several unions representing a little more than 100,000 people working in the rail industry. This is more than half of all rail workers in the U.S. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Because trains operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, railroad workers’ schedules may vary to include nights, weekends, and holidays. Most work full time, and some work more than 40 hours per week.” A job so crucial that the entire U.S. economy is dependent on it pays a median salary of less than $65,000 a year with no paid sick leave whatsoever.

Explaining why Congress felt it necessary to pass a bill to make it illegal for rail workers to strike for better conditions, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “A nationwide rail shutdown would be catastrophic—a shutdown would grind our economy to a halt, and every family would feel the strain.” President Joe Biden similarly explained that the congressional intervention in averting a rail strike would help avoid “devastating economic consequences for workers, families, and communities across the country.”

An economy that devastates workers, leaving them underpaid for a high-pressure job with no sick days, is apparently just fine.

Instead of using its power to force the private rail companies to grant paid sick leave to rail workers, Congress used its levers of power to side with corporate forces rather than with workers. It chose to uplift profits over workers’ needs.

The cost of those profits is tangible and minuscule. Sanders pointed out in a tweet on November 29 that, “Guaranteeing 7 paid sick days to rail workers would cost the rail industry a grand total of $321 million a year—less than 2 percent of its profits.” Meanwhile, he added, “Rail companies spent $25.5 billion on stock buybacks and dividends this year.”

To help private rail companies secure $321 million a year in profits, Congress and the president inserted themselves into contract negotiations and sold out more than 100,000 workers.

As President Biden said in September 2021, “I intend to be the most pro-union president leading the most pro-union administration in American history.” But nearly 30 years ago as a U.S. senator—on the matter of the rail industry in particular—he was more pro-labor than he is today, becoming one of a handful of senators to vote against averting a rail strike. Then-Senator Biden, explaining his ‘no’ vote, said in 1992, “I am… concerned that we are rewarding a concerted decision of the railroads [to negotiate in bad faith] that would have caused fevered expressions of outrage by industry had the unions taken a similar step.”

Today’s congressional intervention indeed rewards the private rail industry that has been engaged in a relentless bid to cut costs in the service of profits.

Corporate media outlets, whose business model is in line with rail companies, have disproportionately amplified lawmakers’ pro-industry talking points. But what are worker unions saying?

The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, one of the unions involved, said it “does not support the notion of Congress intervening in our collective bargaining negotiations to prevent a strike.”

Instead, the union said, “If Congress truly wants to take action to improve the industry for our members, then we recommend legislation that will work to reverse the devastation of Precision Scheduled Railroading [PSR].”

Buried near the end of one article, Associated Press explained the gist of PSR without mentioning it by name, saying that, “The rail industry has aggressively cut costs everywhere and shifted its operations to rely more on fewer, longer trains that use fewer locomotives and fewer employees.”

According to rail company Union Pacific Railroad (UP), this method “keeps inventory (and supply chains) moving.” UP touts PSR’s “benefits to Shippers and Receivers,” who are the company’s’ primary customers. The company makes no mention at all of the toll this “efficiency” has taken on its workers.

Congress could have used its power to force rail companies to address the impact of PSR on workers. But instead, it used its power to side with corporate rail industry profits. It is an underlying assumption of how our society and government are structured that any intervention in the acquisition of profit is seen as a threat to the economy.

It’s no wonder rail workers feel betrayed. One Chicago worker named Rhonda Ewing told the New York Times ahead of the congressional vote, “We know it’s holiday time, which is why it’s the perfect time to raise our voices. If Biden gets involved, he takes away our leverage.”

Coming so soon after the 2022 midterm elections and far enough from the 2024 presidential election, lawmakers have few worries about losing reelection bids based on their voting record. This suggests that Congress and the president timed the votes to maximize their political leverage.

But rail workers are not likely to forget the government’s betrayal. “The political pandering and showboating by the elected officials in the Railroad’s pockets will not diminish our resolve nor remove the respect each Signalman is owed for keeping the economy afloat on a daily basis,” said the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmenin a press release.

And other workers who are increasingly in solidarity with one another in an economy obviously rigged to benefit wealthy corporate employers, are angry too. The National Day Laborer Organizing Network, for example, accused Biden of siding with “wealthy bosses,” and reiterated its support for unions saying, “we will always be in solidarity with all workers.”

Unions are drawing battle lines, demanding that the government flip the script of who the national economy is supposed to benefit.

“The Federal Government inserted itself into the dispute between the railroads and the Railroad Workers under the premise that it must protect the American economy,” wrote Tony D. Cardwell, president of BMWED-IBT, one of the rail unions involved in negotiating contracts. “Yet,” he said, “when the Federal Government makes that decision, its Representatives have a moral responsibility to also protect the interests of the citizens that make this nation’s economy work—American Railroaders.”

In other words, we need an economy that works for the people, not the other way around.

Cardwell warned that the lawmakers’ actions are “nothing less than anti-American, an abdication of their oath of office,” and that, “you are deemed, in my eyes, unworthy of holding office.”

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      1. semper loquitur

        Are you referring to his work (?) as the Transportation Secretary or his work as a token minority? The latter is pretty essential. If you are maintaining an illusion of inclusivity and Woke propriety, that is.

  1. Hank Linderman

    Didn’t the sick leave add on fail because Manchin threatened to filibuster? Or did it need 60 votes regardless?


    1. Kurtismayfield

      The sick leave failed because they separated it out into two bills, and was designed to fail from the beginning.

      The Dems put on a performative show of “fighting for” something again, but really were never going to give the Rail workers PTO to begin with.

      No one in Washington is a friend of labor. We live in an oligarchic republic.

      1. flora

        Isn’t that what the Dems did with the C19 relief bill, one part for wall st and one part for main street was then separated into two bills? One passed easily, the other not.

        1. johnherbiehancock

          Chapo interviewed a couple of the union guys, and they not only glossed over this on the show, but said progressives in the House deserve credit for even bringing it to a vote.

          I was surprised, because it seems to me that a purely symbolic vote designed to fail is actually worse for them in the long run than if Congress had just openly family-blogged them over.

        2. The Rev Kev

          The same happened several months ago with Covid relief funds and tens of billion for the Ukraine. The bill got split, the Ukrainian part sailed through Congress while the funds for Covid relief sank without sight.

    2. diptherio

      I don’t think anyone actually threatened a filibuster, and even if they did, you should make them carry out the threat, otherwise you are just being a mark.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      There is a reason the legislative votes are a matter of public record. Manchin can be the villain, but he gets to sell at home how AOC and Rashida (I’m sure he simply would use first names) aren’t being reasonable. Since there is no clear vote, he can always claim to skeptical Dems he was fighting the good fight.

      Sinema won’t have much of a career after 2024, but she was quite clear when she voted against the minimum wage.

      Back when Bork was nominated, he wasn’t going to get through, but the Dems knew he was such a loser making the GOP vote on him would be a black eye in the eyes of so many voters when the GOP Conservative base desperately wanted Bork. Even today, we talk about Bork when he was just a failed nomination. Republicans were forced to vote for him and put on the record. With Clinton, the Democrats became Team Blue and were more interested in Maureen Dowd columns (who is the other lady? Is my memory off? I feel like there is someone she replaced, not Peggy Noonan) and yukking it up with Reagan types. The GOP still has Bork thrown at them and to a great deal of success because the former Democratic Party made them vote instead of killing it.

    4. anon in so cal

      Besides 1 day of paid sick leave, workers must show up to work at any hour of the day or night with 15 minutes advance notice.

      ““A nationwide rail shutdown would be catastrophic—a shutdown would grind our economy to a halt, and every family would feel the strain.””

      The workers have tremendous, but un-used, power. If the communists had not been expunged from organized labor, would the railroad workers have refused to acquiesce? Would they be fired, indicted, and jailed? I’ve seen calls for a wildcat strike on Dec 9.

  2. John Wright

    I have mentioned before one statement from my Los Angeles County public high school civics class that has stuck with me all these years.

    The instructor told the class “When a politician says he is for the common man, see who he plays golf with, see who he has dinner with, it’s not the common man.”

    This was in the 1960’s and the only update to the statement to reflect current times is to replace the “he” with “he/she”.

    7 sick days/year, assuming they are all used in a 50 week work year corresponds to a 7/250 = 2.8% loss of the worker’s yearly labor.

    If Biden is willing to fight labor to save this relatively small expense for the railroads, one wonders how workers in other critical industries will fare in the future.

    But the political calculation may remain TINA.

  3. Jay

    Ukraine isn’t North Korea – there isn’t that sort of control over information or centralisation of authority. It’s much more like South Vietnam – but not identical. Power is split between the formal government, extremists, the military, and oligarchs. And, yes, various foreign groups via proxies – including, let’s not forget, the Russians. Almost anything is possible.

  4. John Anthony La Pietra

    I’ve been trying to honor the local history of railroad workers for 20 years (the first 15 or so on my own) with events like this one around Labor Day (and May Day too in more recent years):


    Maybe this year, more than the usual bare handful will show up. . . .

  5. Boomheist

    I’ve been rereading Howard Zinn’s Peoples History of the United States and it is shocking how the labor themes playing out today were playing out in the 1870s – 1920s. It was more violent back then, and the government response more violent still, but always, in the end, the unions were crushed by whatever means necessary. The only way anything will change is if all those unions writing nice essays about how they support the railroad workers call for a general strike, nationally (which by the way is surely illegal because the laws favor capital) and sasdlty I don;t expect that to happen….

    1. Aaron

      Exactly. Until the day that the workers themselves (with it without the blessing of the unions) take to the streets in a general strike, nothing will change.
      A great book that details the dichotomy between a bureaucratic union (like we have now in all industries) and a union willing to fight for workers is Teamster Rebellion. I highly recommend this as a proof of what an organized, militant union can accomplish.

  6. marcel

    What happens if all those workers quit, and leave the Railroad managers to do all the work themselves? Do they end up in jail?

    1. semper loquitur

      Apologies, I cannot find a link, but I believe there was some hospital where the staff threatened to quit, for being treated like (rap in all the usual ways. The administrators went to court and had a judge order them back to work because they were essential workers in a time of national emergency. I don’t remember the details but I would suspect something similar would be levied on the rail workers because of their importance.

      1. Deltron

        I’d like to understand more about what a judge order can entail. For instance, do the police visit the homes of the hospital staff, arrest them, and put them in jail? Is each staff person fined? If they don’t pay the fines, are their wages garnished or belongings repossessed? It seems like this type of judge order could turn into a PR issue for the judge (via social media), which would generate sympathizers and perhaps volunteers for the cause.

          1. John C

            I think the case you are thinking of is Thedacare’s suit against Ascension, where Thedacare got a TRO preventing 7 of 11 nurses hired away from Thedacare from starting work at Ascension.


            To Deltron’s question, the TRO got at the employees by restricting Ascension from having them come to work. I can’t find it now, but I believe Ascension had them come in for work anyway, and paid the fines. It generated enormous negative PR for Thedacare, not only for the TRO, but for the working conditions that caused so many employees to leave Thedacare for Ascension.

      2. Karl

        Isn’t forcing a person to work against his will a form of involuntary servitude? I thought that was unconstitutional.

  7. Aaron

    I found this story to be a decent piece of reporting, but the headline is very misleading.
    There are no details of workers calling for wildcat strikes or other forms of action to protest, just a lot of talk. I was deceived by the headline.

  8. Michael Fiorillo

    Lambert’s First laws of Neoliberalism have the obvious benefit of conciseness, but, if only for this topic and the Overclass’ axiomatic approach to labor, I’d like to expand them slightly:

    1. Because Markets.
    2. Eat S*+^ and Go Die.

      1. Lee

        If only one family is responsible for the task and they can have no contact with any outside the family, are they forced to reproduce through inbreeding. If so, there’s a sustainability problem.

        Only read the plot summary at Wiki so maybe my question is answered in the full version.

  9. Another Scott

    From reading about these and similar negotiations and my own experience with unions, it has become apparent to me that there are three interests at stake during CBA negotiations: employers, workers, and the unions. Unions and their leadership are distinct organizations with a set of interests distinct from those of the workers that they’re supposed to represent. Although sometimes the two align, often they do not, and when they conflict, we all know which group’s interests get ignored.

    Although most of the ire of the article is geared towards the Democratic Party, the union leadership needs their blame as well. I will admit it’s often difficult to tell the difference between union leaders and elected Democrats.

    Until and unless workers get union representatives who act in the interest of the union members, situations like this will happen again and again.

    1. Starry Gordon

      Apparently that’s what people want, because somebody elected Biden. He didn’t fall from Mars.

  10. Amateur Socialist

    One of the things that depressed me the most about a very depressing decision by JR Biden: The likely indication of future policymaking wrt PTO for all workers as a public health measure.

    With the RR workers beaten down why would the managers working for Berkshire Hathaways other companies continue to extend PTO? So the pandemic will continue partly because people will have no choice but to go to work.

  11. upstater

    When I worked for the railroad, there wasn’t any sick pay for operating employees. So no sick pay has a long history. However, unless someone was regularly taking weeks off every month during summer or hunting season, there were no consequences. “Marking off” several times a month for days at a time was OK. I recall a number of brakemen or engineers who (some were friends) that would work only a day or two per month for extended periods and still retain seniority and benefits.

    What differs is the attendance policies are now hyper draconian. Only guaranteeing 2 consecutive days off in 28 days, one day off firm per week. Vacations were always bid on seniority, but now it is far more difficult to get any time off unless it US at the company’s convenience. Add to the fact that most operating employees are on extra lists, the start times and days are completely determined by operations and vary considerably (same as before, but worse).

    All the Class 1s are making record profits while traffic volumes are dropping. Union Pacific has embargoed many shipments, BNSF did so last summer. Bill Stephens of Trains magazine had a lengthy article in the January print version about what a mess it has become. It details the confluence of PSR, crew shortages (the great resignation), lack of capital investment, etc.

    The problem roots in the Carter deregulation, Reagan precedent busting the air traffic controller union, mergers in the 80s and 90s and “shareholder value”. There has been minimal regulation since the Interstate Commerce Commission was defanged then abolished. Until the past year, little account from the Surface Transportation for service quality. And the unions have a misleadership class.

    1. Downstater

      It appears that the sick pay focus doesn’t address likely or actual managerial practices that tally and repressively use such things as the exercise of sick day rights.

  12. Mark

    The obscene profits and stock buybacks are proof of the worker’s vastly underrated contributions to the industry. Hasn’t the argument for making the rich richer always been the bullshit “rising tide lifting boats” promise. This is simply more proof that giving the rich more only results in them demanding to take even more.

    Scranton Joe once again proves he puts those with money, big money, first.

    1. sharron

      Seems to me that PSR could affect maintenance of way workers as some maintenance would be unscheduled and have employees or crews that are on call. Thus, they the must report within 15 minutes of call six days a week could apply to them. Of course, the senior workers took less demanding routes. My dad’s last train schedule was for 6hrs per day 6 days a week and his pay was less for less hours worked. He had over 35yrs of service with Santa Fe. He worked over 25 years on the “extra board” waiting for those calls to come to work. He finally got a regular run after 30 years of service. This was back in the 70’s. He retired in 1981. My family worked for the Santa Fe since the 1880’s as engineers, conductors, and shop upper management. My uncles aged 8 and 11 were sent to cross strike lines to deliver meals to my grandfather, who was management and locked in the rail yards. It was a rough time in the 1920’s.

  13. johnherbiehancock

    I think – for the PMC audience and others outside actual laborers (ie small business owners, and retirees) – it would be better to frame the sick days demand as a “smart management” situation, than a “decent thing to do for working people”… which no one who is making above – say- $50k/year in America, or who is watching Fox News all, day cares about.

    They hear the thing about “sick days” and figure it’s just lazy union guys trying to put one over on the Railroads. It’s what they’re conditioned to expext.

    BUT if you explain that the railroad managers & bankers behind them have been siphoning record profits out of their companies while slacking on investment & staffing, such that a COVID outbreak among sick workers forced to work b/c their managers have cut their workforces to the bone, will collapse the supply chain, it becomes a very different issue in the minds of self-absorbed PMCers who only care about their uber eats order getting there when they expect it, and their amazon/fedex/UPS package at their door when it’s supposed to be there

  14. George Phillies

    So if there is a wildcat strike or a work-to-rule, what is the legal enforcement process?

    1. Tim

      I had the exact same question. What is the “or else” here? Any “or else” would be an absolute PR disaster. Kicking the workers after you wouldn’t let them get up off the ground., I’d have to imagine Biden would get the egg on his face and Congressional approval would more quickly approach the lower bound.


    2. Neal

      My recollection about work to rule in one unionized segment of labor is that one legacy airline’s pilots tried that a few years ago, resulting in the pilot’s union being sanctioned. The theory was that elements of the union conspired to conduct an illegal job action.

  15. Tom Denman

    The “progressive” blue media’s narrative goes something like this:

    “Working class Americans got rogered again? Gee, that’s too bad. Now let’s talk about really important things, like the plight of LGBTQ+ polar bears in Ukraine.”

  16. JerryDenim

    I don’t have a firm grasp of Washington’s latest machinations to stymie a multi-union rail strike that looked like it was going to involve multiple rail lines in late November. Organized labor reporting is either inept or biased, and usually it’s both. Prior to the most recent Congressional events, as I understand things, BNSF Railway, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary, a little over a year ago, unilaterally (which is labor law speak for illegally, not through the legally binding collective bargaining process) changed the sick call rules for BNSF workers. Railroad management elected to implement a new policy in late 2021 where the employees were expected to request sick leave in advance (nothing guaranteed) and added a new points-based penalty system for taking their contractually guaranteed days off or sick leave. The dispute which should have been an open and shut case with a ruling for the BNSF workers and penalties for the the railroad was arbitrated, deemed ‘exhausted’ or at an impasse, and the workers released to strike by RLA arbitrator. A rare feat usually reserved for the most egregious employee abuses, yet, U.S. District Judge Mark T. Pittman of the Northern Texas District chose to intervene and blocked the workers from striking. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/bnsf-unions-cant-strike-attendance-policy-judge-rules-rcna13548

    BNSF made a mockery of the collective bargaining process and judge Pittman made a mockery of the law. Surely if a judge sees the need to inject themselves into a railway labor dispute that has already played out inside the strait-jacketed confines of the RLA process, one might think that judge would side with the law-abiding aggrieved party, but no. The the exact opposite happened. Judge Pittman, citing the railroad’s ‘systematic importance’ to the economy, ruled against BNSF employees. Instead of forcing the railroad to honor the “sacrosanct” contract they had made with their employees, which would have also averted a strike, the judge ruled in favor of the rapacious Railroad Conglomerate flaunting the law and abusing their employees. Now these same workers that have been screwed by their employer, the RLA, NRLB, and the courts are now getting screwed again, this time by a Democratic “pro-union” President and Congress. I’m guessing the turn of the knife will be paid back by these union members and their families. Next election’s “racists” or “Russia lovers” no doubt.

    The Strike is the only toothy part of collective bargaining. If trade unions cannot withhold their labor via a ‘strike’, they have no leverage to use in collective bargaining and might as well not exist. Members are paying dues for a big hungry guard dog with no teeth. When our Capitalist system can’t even abide by rules that have already been rigged in its favor, workers aren’t left any choice except monkey wrenches, wildcat strikes or opting out altogether. Corruption and greed have caused our short-sighted leaders to push everything backwards towards lawlessness, violence and catastrophic breakdown. There’s a lot of hand-wringing about the “mystery” of falling labor force participation and finger-wagging about coddled workers spoiled by Covid-era work-from-home policies, but isn’t it obvious that 40 plus years of Neo-liberal class war has made the terms one must except in exchange for employment a one-sided, prison-inmate-like living hell that is best avoided if one has the means to do so? Push things far enough and they do break. But there’s the problem with a financialized economy planned and managed by PE at arm’s length with only with short term greed as a guiding principle. Even if all of these railroads collapse from a lack of workers willing to accept abusive employment and the real economy underlying the financialization of everything implodes, as long as Berkshire Hathaway skates away with more money than they initially paid for BNSF they will not examine their actions or question their tactics. They made money – they won. This is a very sick, self-defeating form of late-stage Capitalism.

    1. upstater

      I blame union misleadership. When I worked for Conrail, our unelected general chairman was convicted of a kickback scheme refurbishing his palatial headquarters in Philly. His proceeds were gambled away in Atlantic city. At sentencing, the company VPs testified for leniency based on his “character”. As a union dissident, both company and union did everything in their power trying to get me fired. I was finally laid off thanks to Carter’s deregulation which decimated employment.

      The handwriting was on the wall that deregulation was going to demolish what had been decent blue collar jobs. But in the late 70s and early 80s “Reagan democrats” was already a thing amongst older workers and most younger workers were more interested in partying than politics. Unfortunately that hasn’t changed. It has been 100 years since workers or union leaders have been willing to walkout and accept the consequences, good or bad.

      The headline, as Aaron points out above, is misleading. While workers are no doubt POed, there is not going to be collective action. They could be very powerful, but the industry is diffused and there isn’t a practical way to disseminate union militancy.

  17. Richard H Caldwell

    Do we need additional proof that the near entirety of Congress has been bought and paid for as loyal, willing, and committed agents of capital to attack, terrorize, frustrate, starve, exploit, and demoralize labor at every quarter, every turn? Class war is now on the agenda. Labor is left with no option but to fight, again, to reclaim the rights it had before Taft-Hartley. Basic rights of human decency in the workplace that have stuck in the craw of capital ever since first won with the sacrifice and blood of labor.

    How dare they! — this is the outraged cry of the capital class. How dare they be so insubordinate as to demand equity, demand decency, demand fairness. They have forgotten their place, and must be crushed! And crushed labor has been, to near serfdom, by the neoliberal onslaught.

    It is time for labor to arise and fight. Don’t be surprised by a wildcat railroad strike. I am sure the horrifying and disastrous consequences to “consumers” and “the economy” cited by members of Congress as justification for this action come directly from canned talking points spewed by the armies of capital, the denizens of K Street, through the corrupt mouths of our “representatives”. It is time to arise and end this tyranny.

  18. Karl

    Pelosi suggests railroad workers have lots of leverage. Maybe the “strike” is an obsolete means of using it.

    “A nationwide rail shutdown would be catastrophic—a shutdown would grind our economy to a halt, and every family would feel the strain.”

    If 100,000 “critical” workers just quit all at once, could they end up being as unsuccessful as air traffic controllers were when they went on strike in the ’80’s? One commenter here said a judge ordered “critical” hospital staff who quit to return to work. Really? I suspect railroaders would not be so willing to be ordered to “not quit” without a long, drawn out fight (e.g. lengthy appeals in the courts and the court of public opinion).

    Couldn’t the railroaders organize among themselves and just say “eff this job”? If the law can force “strikers” back to work, screw the strike as a mechanism. You can’t force quitters back to work if they are that passionate about their predicament and are willing to lose their jobs. Just set up an worker internet site, organize digitally, and agree to quit on a date certain. J

    Workers everywhere have a new organizing tool: the internet. Screw the pitiful NLRB and the weak/corrupt union bosses.

    Workers of the world unite (digitally)!

    1. upstater

      It would be *nice* if workers could organize digitally. But how long do you think it might take big tech to shut down digital platforms organizing a wildcat strike? If a platform like FB, Twitter or tiktok was used, how long before they would self censor or have an injunction served on national security grounds? How could workers independent of the union or company gain access to contact information to organize? How could information be disseminated independently using tech?

      There is something like a 3:1 ratio of management to unionized workers and at many class 1s managers are qualified to run trains. And don’t think there wouldn’t be many union workers that would gladly cross picket lines; after all the engineers union approved the contract and 46% of the conductors union voted yes.

      What’s going to happen is more resignations and hiring of low quality newbies. Service will get worse and accidents increase (actually “wrecks” caused by inexperienced workers). There already is considerable automation running trains and it will increase substantially.

      There needs to be new methods of organizing. I don’t know what they may be.

  19. JBird4049

    I am confused. Despite all the screaming, nobody has explained just how the government can force the individual workers to work? So what if the union is sanctioned. Are they slaves? Will the Order Police come to their house and drag them away?

  20. Jeff

    To all of you who reluctantly or not voted for Biden, you should be hanging your heads in shame.

    That senile plank of wood sociopath is behaving exactly like republicans did during the iraq war. How much longer are Dem voters willing to live in this delusion about your party?

    1. spud


      here here.

      back in the 1990’s when i still listened to NPR, a so called economists was being interviewed from the university of Minnesota who proudly proclaimed to be for free trade, because he was convinced we would keep our standards and our civil society under free trade.

      today we have wide spread forced prison labor, wide spread child labor, we have brought back debtors prisons, now we have indentured servitude.

      that economist if he still teaches, should hang his head in shame, and should be run out of the university, and lose his tenure and retirement.

  21. robaniel

    There is an organization that I rarely see mentioned anywhere that is all about organizing labor at the rank and file level and on a world wide basis. They recently backed a candidate who ran for president of the United Auto Workers Union who wanted to abolish the intrenched and corrupt union bureaucracy in favor of said rank and file committees down on the shop floor. That is the World Socialist Web Site. It seems to me we are all so indoctrinated to distrust anything “socialist” that they are just not taken seriously. But in my opinion their perspective is from a point of view I cannot get anywhere else and is often proved to be most accurate and prophetic.

  22. Thomas Wallace

    Are workers really up in arms over this? Or is this simply a talking point.

    The workers were negotiating for months, and “The terms mirror those in the agreement the White House brokered in September, including a roughly 24 percent pay increase by 2024, more flexibility to take time off for doctor’s appointments, and a paid personal day.” If paid sick leave was the big issue, there was plenty of room to fit it into a package of 24% pay bump plus other benefits.

    Eight of twelve unions approved the deal before the strike. I’m all for railroad employees being treated fairly. But with a 24% raise, they seem to be able to take care of themselves. Other than this is a complex issue that was distilled into a talking point.

    1. JBird4049

      “The terms mirror those in the agreement the White House brokered in September, including a roughly 24 percent pay increase by 2024, more flexibility to take time off for doctor’s appointments, and a paid personal day.” If paid sick leave was the big issue, there was plenty of room to fit it into a package of 24% pay bump plus other benefits.

      No, actually. The issue wasn’t pay, but the lack of sick days as the owners of the railroads said that their red line was giving any sick days at all to the workers. The workers were asking for two weeks. They were given a single paid personal day.

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