Friday, December 21, 2012

Sometimes A Great Notion: Local Union Reformers Run For National Union Office

Forty years ago this December, members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) did the unthinkable. They elected three of their own–rank-and-file coal miners–to top national positions in the UMWA. The labor establishment was deeply shocked and unsettled.
This kind of thing was just not done–and not a single labor organization (with the exception of the always independent United Electrical Workers) applauded W. A. (“Tony”) Boyle’s well-deserved defeat in his bid for re-election as UMWA president.
Then and now, rising to the top in organized labor normally requires waiting your turn (and, when you capture a leadership position, holding on to it for as long as you can, regardless of the organizational consequences). For trade unionists who are ambitious and successful, upward mobility usually follows a long career track that looks something like this: shop steward, local bargaining committee or executive board member, local union officer, national union staffer, national union executive board member, and then national union officer–president, vice-president, or secretary-treasurer.
Aspiring labor leaders can most easily make the transition from membership elected positions, at the local level, to appointed national union staff jobs if they conform politically. Dissidents tend to be passed over for such vacancies or not even considered for them unless union patronage is being deployed, by those at the top, to co-opt actual or potential local critics.
As appointed staffers move up, via the approved route, in the field or at union headquarters, they burnish their resumes and gain broader organizational experience “working within the system.” If they become candidates for higher elective office later in their career, they enjoy all the advantages of de facto incumbency (by virtue of their full-time staff positions, greater access to multiple locals, and politically-helpful headquarters patrons). Plus, in the absence of any one-member/one-vote election process, most seekers of union-wide office only have to compete for votes among several thousand usually docile national convention delegates. In unions that provide geographical representation on their board, candidates for regional leadership positions can even get elected, at conventions, with the support of just a few hundred local union delegates. Either way, candidates who are part of an “administration team” usually win over independents and rank-and-file slates (particularly in unions where all board members are elected “at large”).
The MFD’s Unwelcome Victory
In 1972, the Miners for Democracy (MFD) blazed a trail directly to the top, under admittedly abnormal circumstances because the UMWA permits direct election of top officers by the entire membership. Three years before MFD candidates ran, there was a contested race of a different sort, involving two longtime union insiders. Fed up with Tony Boyle’s coziness with coal companies, executive board member Joseph (“Jock”) Yablonski challenged Boyle for the presidency. Unfortunately, the election was stolen by the incumbent, although the results were later overturned by the U.S. Department of Labor. When it came time for a government-supervised rematch, Yablonski was, tragically, no longer available to run. He had been assassinated in the meantime (along with his wife and daughter).
Three little-known local union officers hailing from West Virginia or Pennsylvania–Arnold Miller, Harry Patrick, and Mike Trbovich–entered the lists instead. They had never been on the UMWA national staff or executive board but carried the banner of union democracy and reform anyway. Even though they were running, at the top of the ticket, against a management-friendly incumbent– soon to be indicted for his role in the Yablonski murders–the MFD slate won by only 14,000 votes out of 126,700 cast, hardly a landslide.
From a vantage point four decades later, the choice between Boyle and the MFD should have been a nobrainer. But in the rough-andtumble world of trade union politics, the advantages of incumbency should not to be underestimated, in any era. As a grassroots organizing project, mounting an electoral challenge to any candidate favored by the national union establishment is an uphill fight, even when the bureaucracy itself is discredited or split. Competitive elections (aka “this is what democracy looks like”) are far more celebrated in the breach than the observance in organized labor. In fact, within labor’s top officialdom, there’s no announcement more pleasing to the ears than “re-elected by acclamation.” Whether that’s healthy for the labor movement is another question.
To explore the rare but important phenomena of contested national union elections, this article begins with the MFD saga. It then examines the Teamster presidential election campaign of Ron Carey twenty years later and reports on the experience of two present-day local union officers who had the audacity to run for top jobs in their respective national organizations just last year.

A Partial UMWA Revolution

The MFD victory and its tumultuous ten-year aftermath has been variously chronicled by former UMWA lawyer Tom Geoghegan in Which Side Are You On?, labor studies professor Paul Clark in The Miners Fight for Democracy and journalist Paul Nyden’s contribution to a recent Verso collection entitled, Rebel Rank and File. As Nyden notes, the election that thrust three rank-and-filers into unfamiliar jobs in a disfunctional national union headquarters in Washington, D.C., “channeled the spontaneous militancy arising throughout the Appalachian coal fields” during the previous decade. In the 1960s, miners staged two huge wildcat work-stoppages protesting national contracts negotiated in secret by Boyle (with no membership ratification); in 1969, 45,000 UMWA members participated in a statewide political strike which accelerated passage of new federal mine safety legislation and creation of the first West Virginia program for compensation of miners disabled with “black lung.”
According to Nyden, candidates backed by the MFD, a group founded at Yablonski’s funeral in 1970, “succeeded in ousting one of the country’s most corrupt and deeply entrenched union bureaucracies” because they had key allies inside and outside the union. In the coalfields, “wives and widows of disabled miners, the Black Lung Association, the wildcat strikers, and above all the young miners who were dramatically reshaping the composition of the UMWA constituted the backbone of the campaign.” Also aiding the MFD was a skilled and committed network of community organizers, former campus activists, journalists, coalfield researchers, and public interest lawyers, some of whom would later play controversial roles as headquarters staffers for the union.
The UMWA had been run in autocratic fashion since the 1920s when John L. Lewis crushed the last major rank and file challenge to the leadership, a campaign mounted by progressive miners like John Brophy and Powers Hapgood. So when the MFD took over, the institutional context was a smaller scale union version of the political turmoil following recent Arab Spring uprisings or any similar overthrow of a dictatorship in place for many decades.
The new leaders inherited formidable internal and external problems that would have been vexing for anyone in their shoes. They succeeded in the project of structural democratization and, for a time, more competent union administration. But membership expectations in the crucial area of contract negotiations and enforcement were not met. As the 1970s progressed, new UMWA organizing initiatives failed to counter the coal industry’s systematic “de-unionization,” a process that continues unabated today.

An Erratic President

Within the union, the conservative Boyle forces quickly regrouped and maintained their own baleful, disruptive influence. The three top MFD officers fell out among themselves, with the best and youngest of them–Harry Patrick–leaving the UMWA after a single term of office in 1977. Arnold Miller’s weak and erratic presidency became an unmitigated disaster; in 1977-78, 160,000 miners had to battle UMWA headquarters and the White House while shutting down the bituminous coal industry for 110 days . Highlights of that struggle included two contract rejections and a failed Taft-Hartley back-to-work order sought by Jimmy Carter.
To this day, the MFD experience (for those who remember it) remains a Rorshach test for how one views sudden regime change in labor, engineered from below. Some MFD veterans, who were ex-coal miners, blamed (and even red-baited) “the outsiders” for what went wrong. By the late 1970s, most of the college educated non-miners, who were swept into influential positions by the MFD’s victory, left in frustration over the failings or political setbacks of their friends and allies. Some went on to work for other unions, most recently the Service Employees International Union.
Washington, D.C., labor insiders viewed UMWA turmoil as proof that “inexperienced” people should never be allowed to run a major union. On the labor left, the shortcomings of the Miller Administration have always been attributed to its unwillingness to empower fully the rank-and-file. If only “the MFD hadn’t been disbanded” and top officials had been willing to embrace the right to strike over grievances and employed the militancy of the UMWA’s wildcat strike culture, rather than clashing with it, the outcome would have been different.
Some semblance of stability and forward motion was not restored until a second-generation reformer, Rich Trumka, took over as UMWA president in 1982, after defeating a former Boyle supporter who replaced Arnold Miller when he retired for health reasons in the middle of his second term. Trumka gained valuable experience as a headquarters legal staffer during Miller’s first term. Plus, he had the street cred of working underground before and after his initial tour of full-time union duty in Washington, D.C. But even with steadier, more skilled hands at the helm–and an inspiring strike victory at Pittston in 1989–the union has remained on a steady course to near total marginalization; its actual working membership today is only about 12,000.
History Repeats Itself in the IBT?
The most high profile challenges to the leadership of other major industrial unions, in the 1970s and 1980s, did not take the form of pure rank-and-file insurgencies of the MFD sort. Instead, they looked more like Jock Yablonski’s break with Boyle in 1969. In the United Steel Workers and Auto Workers, two dissident regional directors in the mid-west, Ed Sadlowski and Jerry Tucker, challenged their respective union establishments. Both called for reform while serving as national executive board members, after winning those positions in elections that were initially stolen. Both were forced out of top leadership positions after trying to move up or just get re-elected. Tucker fell victim to tight control of convention delegate voting by the UAW “Administration Caucus,” which has ruled his Detroit-based union for six decades. With some former UMWA reformers assisting him, Sadlowski ran strongly, but unsuccessfully, for USWA president in 1977 balloting involving nearly 600,000 of the union’s then 1.4 million members.
A campaign like Sadlowski’s was impossible in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) when that union picked its top leadership at national union conventions heavily influenced by organized crime. As part of the settlement of a controversial Justice Department anti-racketeering lawsuit in 1989, the IBT was forced to hold its first-ever direct election of officers and board members two years later.
Fortunately, the IBT was the longtime turf of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), which campaigned for this more democratic method of voting. TDU was launched just a few years after the MFD, as a vehicle not just for electioneering but for long-term rank-and-file organizing. In the IBT two decades ago, there were no credible or trusted defectors from the national leadership like Ed Sadlowski or Jerry Tucker; but, helpfully, the Teamster “old guard” became badly splintered. Two rival slates formed, composed of existing IBT executive board members, wellknown regional officials, and other principal officers of large Teamster locals.
For fifteen years, TDU had been conducting unofficial, bottom-up “contract campaigns” and helping Teamsters democratize their local union by-laws and run for local office. TDU helped assemble a full slate of executive board and officer candidates headed by Ron Carey. Carey was an ex-Marine and militant leader of United Parcel Service (UPS) workers in New York City; his vocal criticism of Teamster corruption had turned him into a pariah among fellow local union officials (only several of whom agreed to run with him). Most of Carey’s running-mates were TDUers who had never held any union position above the level of shop steward or convention delegate.
As Newsday labor reporter Ken Crowe recounted in Collision: How the Rank-and-File Took Back The Teamsters, the 400,000 Teamsters who cast their ballots in 1991 were participating in the largest government-supervised union vote since the MFD ousted Tony Boyle. Carey garnered very little delegate support at the IBT convention where presidential candidates were nominated that year. So Teamster employers, the AFL-CIO, and the mass media were all much surprised when he won the union presidency with 48% of the membership vote. Carey’s largely rank-and-file slate swept all but one position on the union’s executive board.
The Rise (and Fall) of Ron Carey
Anyone who had experienced the MFD years at UMWA headquarters and then spent some time in the IBT’s “Marble Palace” in Washington, D.C., after Carey became president could not help but feel a sense of deja vu. Carey inherited a hostile and disfunctional national union bureaucracy; at the local level, scores of Teamster affiliates were cesspools of corruption, headed by crooks and thugs of all sorts.
Like the Boyle forces in the UMWA, Teamster regional barons remained bitter foes of the new reform administration. They had been ousted from the executive board, stripped of costly perks, and then deprived of additional paychecks for their multiple union positions by a TDU-backed reformer. Much of the Teamster officialdom, while not corrupt, nevertheless feared and disliked Carey’s strong commitment to rallying the rank and file in contract campaigns and strikes. That approach to union bargaining was perceived as undermining “local autonomy”– i.e. the ability of IBT officials to negotiate any kind of sweetheart contract with management.
A Teamster counter-revolution began brewing almost immediately. It produced the 1996 presidential candidacy of James P. Hoffa, a lawyer from Michigan who had never been a working member of the union, except in summer jobs arranged by his father when he was IBT president. Hoffa senior was one of the best-known labor leaders in the nation before he was imprisoned in 1967, later pardoned by Richard Nixon, then kidnapped and killed by the Mafia in 1975.
Carey defeated Hoffa in 1996–by a mere 16,000 votes–but in a tainted fashion that sadly turned reform-oriented rule into a mere interregnum in Teamster history. Carey’s career came crashing down in “Teamster Donorgate”–a re-election campaign financing scandal that ensnared many, inside and outside the union, including Rich Trumka, then secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO.
Trumka took the Fifth when he was questioned before a federal grand jury about the federation’s role in a complicated contribution swap scheme arranged by various Carey campaign consultants, vendors, or union staff members. Most pled guilty, while one, the Teamsters’ political director, was convicted and jailed. Carey himself was forced from office and indicted for perjury; denying any knowledge of the transactions, he was later acquitted. Trumka was never charged.
But, in collective bargaining, Ron Carey was no Arnold Miller. Before Carey was forced out in late 1997, Teamster reformers, working in his Washington and in the field, still managed to pull off the biggest, best-organized strike of the decade. Under Carey, the IBT orchestrated an unprecedented mobilization of 200,000 UPS workers that ended in a widely supported 15-day national workstoppage. It was widely hailed as just what the labor movement needed to go on the offensive again. Unfortunately, when the 1996 election was overturned and re-run, Hoffa won the first of his now four presidential campaigns. In each election, until last year’s race, the local officer running as TDU’s candidate got more than a third of the vote, while agitating for a return to the militancy and membership mobilization of the Carey years. Hoffa and his leadership team have taken a less adversarial path. Much to the dismay of some Teamster dues payers, the current Teamster president has also helped solidify his support by condoning (and contributing to) the collection of multiple union salaries by Teamster officials, a practice that drains the IBT treasury of $12 million a year.
The IBT’s Latest Three-Way Field
Mounting dissatisfaction with Hoffa’s now fourteen-year year reign spawned not one, but two local union challengers, who went the distance in the IBT’s latest direct election battle. Despite more than two decades of federal court oversight, Teamster conventions still reflect the culture of an unrepentant one-party state. So when supporters of Sandy Pope, a local president from Queens, N.Y., and Fred Gegare, a local president and dissenting Teamster board member from Wisconsin, went to the microphones to speak on behalf of their respective candidates (or any other issue) in Las Vegas last June, they were drowned out by the thunderous boos of a pro-Hoffa crowd numbering more than 4,000.
A TDU supporter since the late 1970s, Pope was photogenic, articulate, and a tireless campaigner with a substantive critique of Hoffa’s record. She also had a solid personal resume featuring actual Teamster work experience, followed by years of full-time union service as an effective organizer, international union representative (under Carey), and elected leader of a model Teamster local. Gegare similarly stressed his own rank-and-file background, as opposed to Hoffa’s lack of it; his attacks on “Junior” had the additional bite of coming from someone who was, for years, a Hoffa backer and leading mid-western member of his administration.
\Both Pope and Gegare were, in their own way, intent on forcing an important debate about the future of the union. But, in Las Vegas, where each Hoffa critic was nominated with about 9% of the delegate vote, the pro-Hoffa delegates, alternates, and guests weren’t much interested in listening to them. When the two opposition candidates went to the podium for their 20-minute nomination acceptance speeches, their audience immediately dwindled to their own combined delegation of about 300; everyone else walked out of the hall.
Barnstorming around the country, in a grueling campaign for anyone with local union responsibilities, both fared much better. Their combined anti-Hoffa vote among the 250,000 Teamsters who cast ballots last fall was twice the percentage they got among IBT convention delegates. But, in a blow to TDU, Gegare (who was running with a near full slate of running mates) got 23%–taking more votes away from the reform movement’s past base of support than he did from Hoffa’s constituency.
As a result, Pope–who was running alone, just against Hoffa–placed a disappointing third, with 17%. The 70-year old incumbent was re-elected, with 40 percent of the vote, for another five-year term. As TDU organizer Ken Paff points out, Hoffa’s huge fund-raising advantage explains a lot about the results. The Teamster president “raised $3 million, according to his slate’s financial reports, most of it from officials who owe their positions or power to him,” Paff wrote in Labor Notes. In contrast, Pope raised about $200,000, “could afford a mailing to less than 20 percent of the union’s membership” and relied on volunteer phone banking for her GOTV effort. Hoffa “did multiple mailings to the 1.3 million members, the bulk of them devoted to vicious attacks on Sandy Pope.” Hoffa also benefited from controversial IBT- funded robo-calling that was ostensibly non-partisan and aimed at boosting turnout but subtly reinforced his core campaign message about “unity.” Both Bill Clinton and Danny DeVito taped messages urging Teamsters to vote, which 20% did.
This lowest ever turn-out–and the cost of direct elections every five years–is now cited, by Hoffa supporters, in their revived drive to switch back to the old Teamster method of electing top officers and board members at convention. In response, defenders of “the Right to Vote” note that the twoyear administrative costs of the most recent direct election add up to about the same amount the IBT spends, in a single year, bestowing additional pay-checks on favored officials already receiving one or more for their local or joint council positions. As a percentage of Teamster dues income over five years, argues TDU, “democracy costs less than one half of one percent of your dues!”
A CWA Convention Challenge
A few weeks after the Teamsters vacated Las Vegas last summer, local union delegates from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) came to town to pick their own national officers and executive board members. Although only convention delegates, rather than the entire membership, get to vote on the union’s top leadership, the culture of CWA convention elections is relatively democratic, if still tipped very much in favor of incumbents and de facto incumbents with headquarters connections and backing.
For example, it’s not unusual, although difficult, for the president of a large local, who has never been tapped to serve on the national union staff, to run successfully against an incumbent CWA vice-president in charge of one of CWA’s fourteen geographical or occupational groupings. The odds are better when there’s an open executive board seat, like the one won last year by an African-American president of a large telephone local in Texas. He defeated a top assistant to the previous CWA executive board member from District 6, which covers a five-state region.
In 2011, however, Don Trementozzi, a telecom local president in New England, became the first local union leader in thirty years to run for a CWA national officer job. (The last such challenger, also from Texas, actually succeeded when two headquarters officials vied for the same vacant position as Executive Vice-President.) Last year, to save money, CWA eliminated this EVP slot–a position held, at the time, by 20-year national union employee and former CWA District 7 leader, Annie Hill. Hill teamed up with incumbent President Larry Cohen to run for secretary-treasurer, when the holder of that office decided to retire.
In the normal course of events, the Cohen-Hill “unity team” would have been chosen by acclamation, due to the long political coat-tails of the widely-respected Cohen, who made it known that he also plans to retire in 2015. But Trementozzi, like Pope and TDU, wanted to force a debate about issues–in this case the breakdown of CWA bargaining coordination and solidarity within AT&T, the union’s largest employer three years ago.
No Time For Debate?
A 52-year-old native of Rhode Island, Trementozzi is a Verizon customer service rep and former activist in AFSCME and the IAM, who was elected president of CWA Local 1400 in 2002, after running on a reform slate. He was involved in last year’s strike at Verizon and serves as a member of the regional union committee trying to negotiate a new contract covering 45,000 VZ workers from Massachusetts to Virginia. Last February, Trementozzi announced his independent candidacy for CWA secretary-treasurer with a statement redolent of union populism from the past. Dubbing his effort “Save Our Union 2011,” Trementozzi declared that CWA “needs more people in the top leadership who can better reflect the perspective of those of us closest to the membership, who must deal with rankand- file concerns every day.” (See
In their low-budget campaign, Trementozzi and his backers blamed Hill for AT&T bargaining miscues in 2009. Taking a supportive and conciliatory stance toward the top of the administration ticket, Trementozzi argued that “President Cohen needs a stronger partner in Washington than he’s going to end up with for the next four years if Annie Hill becomes secretary-treasurer.”
Unfortunately, Trementozzi’s appeal for “ticketsplitting” as “the way forward in CWA” failed to sway delegates from the union’s flight attendant division, newspaper guild, manufacturing sector locals, and public employee bargaining units in New Jersey that Cohen helped organize three decades ago. Save Our Union (SOU) drew support primarily from telecom locals in upstate New York and New England, plus unhappy AT&T local officers in other parts of the country (including leaders of the largest telecom local in Texas). SOU’s total campaign budget was about $7,000.
The day before the vote, Hill haughtily boycotted a candidates’ forum that Trementozzi had arranged so the two could finally have a face-to-face debate. Taking a leaf from Hoffa in the Teamsters, Hill had earlier refused to make any joint appearance with her opponent, via conference calls or in person, before delegates anywhere in the country. Instead of debating in Las Vegas, Hill handed out a list of “Cohen-Hill supporters” that included the names of more than 70 union staffers, lawyers, and executive board members who were not even delegates or eligible to vote.
CWA convention rules unfairly limited “Save Our Union” speakers to just the two delegates who nominated Trementozzi and then second his nomination. They were granted a total of four minutes to make the case for electing him. There was no time allotted for either secretarytreasurer candidate to address the delegates before the convention recessed so secret balloting could begin.
About 1,100 delegates cast votes based on the membership strength of their locals. Hill received 276, 769 votes (or 74.5% of the total), while Trementozzi got 94,733 (25.5%). While Sandy Pope and other TDUers will be resisting efforts to make the 2011 Teamster presidential race the last one decided by a popular vote, Don Trementozzi and other SOU supporters have a more modest procedural proposal to make. They’d just like to change CWA’s convention rules, in 2013, so any future contenders for top union office get the same twenty minutes to make a nomination acceptance speech that Teamster candidates had. In CWA, they believe, most delegates might even stay in their seats to hear what the opposition has to say.
Steve Early worked for 27 years on the national staff of the Communications Workers of America in the northeast. In 2011, he was an active supporter of Don Trementozzi’s “Save Our Union” campaign for CWA secretary treasurer. Early also aided Ron Carey’s successful candidacy for Teamster president and, while on loan from CWA, served on Carey’s headquarters “transition team” in 1992. In the mid- 1970s, he was a headquarters staff member of the United Mine Workers when MFD candidate Arnold Miller was president of that union. He is the author most recently of The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor from Haymarket Books, and can be reached at This piece originally appeared in Social Policy, Winter, 2012, Volume 41, #4, For Social Policy subscription information, see

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Blog Post From A Member! Obama crosses the line.

Obama crosses the line.

The 'fiscal cliff' is a maneuver to enrich the rich and pauperize workers as a whole by sacrificing retired workers.

It was inevitable once Obama was elected. Attacks on the standard of living of workers and retired workers has always been his goal. Obots, Democrats and other sellouts enabled this sellout. The leadership of the AFL-CIO enabled this sellout. These labor sellouts now join the Democrats as proven enemies of working people in the eyes of growing numbers of workers and retired workers. In the unions we have to fight to replace them with real leaders from the union left, leaders not afraid to strike, to organize or to act independently of the twin parties of the banksters.

Obama is, on behalf of the banks he sold himself to, going to cap COLAs, gut Medicare and Medicaid and raise the retirement age again. That, and continuing declines in the wages and benefits of workers as a whole because of union busting by Democrats and Republicans will further deepen the depression and further fuel the radicalization of working people.

Workers need political independence from the parties of the banksters. That will come as the union left grows and challenges the sellout Trumka leadership by organizing and winning strikes to regain all that was lost under Carter, Reagan, the Bushes, the Clinton's the Bushes and Obama.

Those struggles will inevitably lead to the creation or workers parties and a workers government.

Bill Perdue, RWU, TCU/IAM
Las Vegas 12 18 2012 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rank-and-File Railroaders Resist Single-Employee Trains

Rank-and-File Railroaders Resist Single-Employee Trains
by JP Wright and Ed Michael
[from the December 2012 issue of Labor Notes]

And Then There Was One… 

Back in the old days, in order to operate safely, a freight train used a five-person crew—an engineer, a fireman, two brakemen, and a conductor.
After two-way radios and electronic air brake monitoring allowed the railroads to eliminate the caboose in the 1980s, crew size went down to three.
Tough contract negotiations eliminated another crew member, so now almost every freight train rolling across the U.S. is operated by just an engineer and a conductor.  
Railroaders fear the conductor will be next to go. The railroads say they want single-employee trains, and union leaders have allowed language to seep into contracts that says if crew size is reduced to one, that last remaining crew member will be an engineer or a conductor—depending which union is negotiating the language. 
With union officials asleep at the wheel on this dangerous prospect, Railroad Workers United, a cross-union coalition of rank-and-file railroaders, is taking up the challenge to stop the runaway train.  
Some trains are over 10,000 feet long and weigh more than 15,000 tons. Engineers drive the train and take care of the engines, but the freight conductor does the rest. If anything goes wrong with the equipment, the conductor walks the train to find blown air hoses, broken couplers, or trespasser accidents. If the train stops in a busy town, the conductor can quickly separate the train to allow emergency equipment to reach blocked rail crossings.
Both engineer and conductor are licensed by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), with constant retraining and on-the-job testing to ensure compliance with the many operating rules and regulations that govern trains. 
We are drilled in the railroad’s Homeland Security awareness plan and told that the security of the nation’s railways depends on our two sets of eyes observing every inch of our unsecured railroad infrastructure.
The rail industry in the U.S. is highly unionized and divided along craft lines into 13 unions. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), now part of the Teamsters, mostly represents engineers, and the United Transportation Workers (UTU), which merged into the Sheet Metal Workers to form SMART, represents the conductors.
For years the railroads have divided train crews by pitting the leaders of these two unions against each other.
Several years ago, the railroads introduced a technology called Remote Control Operation (RCO). Inbound train cars come to the “yard” to be received, separated, and regrouped into tracks so that outbound trains are built with cars all going to the same destination. Yard crews used to consist of engineer, brakeman, and conductor.
Now many yard crews have been reduced to a lone conductor with a remote control device strapped to his/her body. He remotely operates the engine’s throttle and brakes while also uncoupling cars, throwing switches, and talking on the radio to the yardmaster and to incoming engineers. 
At first BLET and UTU leaders stood united against remote control, but because an attempt to merge the two unions failed, UTU leaders broke ranks and agreed to RCO operations—eliminating many engineers’ jobs.
Several remote control operators have been killed or severely injured, crushed or run over by their own equipment. Of course, the companies’ accident investigations blame operator error, but they never address the underlying cause of those errors: forcing one person to take over the duties of three while operating dangerous equipment.
The railroads want Road freight crews to face similar downsizing. After a freight train and a commuter train collided in Chatsworth, California in 2008, killing 25 and injuring 135, Congress mandated another new technology, Positive Train Control, by 2015.
The unions have been advocating PTC, as a safety measure, for years, while the railroads have claimed it was too expensive. PTC monitors trains by computer and satellite GPS. The computer can stop the train if the crew does not brake or slow down correctly.
Plans are to phase in PTC first on passenger train routes and where there is a heavy volume of hazardous material. Some railroads are already experimenting with a form of PTC for “cruise control” to conserve fuel.
But the railroads believe PTC will position them to reduce crew size to one—a safety problem not only for train crews but also for the public, since train crews in over-the-road freight service are subjected to grueling fatigue.
Crews are on duty 24/7/365 and receive only a two- or three-hour notice to report for work at any time of the day or night. They normally take a train from their home terminal to an assigned away-from-home terminal and lay over there until a train is available to return home. They can be called again, and often are, after only 10 hours off. Then they may remain on duty for up to 12 hours.
All this makes it hard for crew members to adjust the demands of their personal lives and their rest time so that they are properly rested for work when called.
The railroads supply a “train line-up” for workers to estimate when they may go to work—but the line-ups are often incorrect by 12 to 24 hours, and a crew must work when called, whether rested or not.
The unions have been trying to negotiate fatigue mitigation for years, without much success. The railroads deem it too costly. So conductors and engineers rely on each other’s help to fight fatigue and maintain awareness of all the conditions of their train and surroundings.
Single-employee crews would leave a fatigued solitary railroader alone to deal with the duties and problems of both engineer and conductor. Railroaders know that mistakes on their part can endanger not only themselves but also the communities they pass through.
No rank-and-file worker thinks single employee operations are a safe idea. But despite RWU’s requests, officials of the two unions aren’t saying where they stand. Many workers are afraid their leaders might agree to one-person crews in order to gain some advantage over the other union.
RWU has kicked off a national campaign to stop single-employee operations. We are distributing educational flyers and bumper stickers to spread the word, and we are reaching out to community organizations. 
We are asking rail union locals to petition our union leaders to get on board. To protect rail workers and the public, we have to keep safety from going off the rails.

[JP Wright is an engineer for CSX in Louisville, Kentucky, and a member of BLET Division 78. Ed Michael is an engineer on the Union Pacific in Salem, Illinois, and a member of both BLET Division 724 and UTU Local 979. Both are leaders of RWU,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Fighting “Behavior Based Safety” Programs

Fighting “Behavior Based Safety” Programs

Ed Michael, UTU #979 & BLET #724, UP, Salem, IL

We all are aware of the pitfalls and problems of behavior-based safety (BBS) programs and the damage they can do to a safe work place and to union solidarity. But finding a way of fighting them off while replacing them with an effective safety program can be difficult.

In many places we have seen the carriers establish BBS by co-opting local union members, or even officers, with generous paid time away from their regular assignments, or by promising "leniency" on discipline cases. Conversely we have seen carrier officers establish harsher discipline policies in locations, such as my service unit, where local unions have refused to participate in BBS.

Unfortunately, many locals have been forced to deal with BBS programs by themselves.  General Chairmen and National and International Divisions have provided little or no guidance whatsoever, leaving local officers to fend for themselves. Even though there is an abundance of information available about how other industrial unions have dealt with BBS programs, rail labor leaders have done little to educate members about these programs.

The UTU Local and BLET Division in my terminal have been effectively refusing to participate in a BBS program. It is not an easy thing to do, but it can be accomplished. There are two important points to consider:

1. Local officers must first educate themselves about the ways in which BBS programs can damage union solidarity and make the workplace less safe. Then they must begin the process to educate their members. The BBS program makes it easy to fall into the trap of putting the fault strictly on the members, but we must always remind ourselvesthat we cannot ignore the underlying causes of accidents.

2. Secondly, we cannot just refuse to participate in BBS programs and let it go at that. Unions must always be involved in protecting the safety of their members, so we must have an alternative to BBS. 

At our terminal, the UTU Local and the BLET Division each formed their own safety committee under the guidance of their respective Legislative Representatives. These safety committees offered to meet with local officers on a regular basis. Carrier officers recognize that even though we will not be involved in the BBS program, we are serious about cooperating in reducing hazards, accidents and injuries. 

The BLET and UTU safety committees work together to address safety issues from a united front. We meet with the carrier once a month and work together with local officers to eliminate worksite hazards on an ongoing basis. Members submit safety issues to their Safety Committee and these are subsequently addressed with local officers. Local officials also bring safety issues to the table for the UTU and BLET to address.  Solutions to problems are cooperatively discussed and referred to the proper people for disposition.  Solutions to problems that cannot be enacted or approved on a local basis are put in letter form and submitted to a higher authority for action.
Here are some of the reasons our version of a workplace safety committee has been successful:

UTU and BLET members put petty differences aside and always put forward a united front.

The monthly meeting with local management is open  
to all union members and they are encouraged to attend.

The meeting is open to all crafts (TE&Y, MOW, Car Dept, Signal, etc.).

The managers from all departments are invited.

Layoffs by union members are scrupulously kept to an absolute minimum. Nothing damages a safety pro-
gram more than members believing it to be nothing more than a "cush" assignment for their representative.

Monthly meeting minutes and records are kept and 
posted at the yard office for all to see and read.

UTU & BLET safety reps make a full report on activities at each monthly meeting.

Fighting BBS programs and replacing them with truly effective safety programs is no easy task. It takes serious dedication on the part of the BLET, UTU and all union members to make it work. But it can, and must, be done

Friday, November 16, 2012

You Railroad Men Eugene Victor Debs

This document should be read and understood by all railroaders. Click the links in the body of the text that are a different color to get more information. 

E. V. Debs

You Railroad Men


This appeal is made particularly to railway employees  among whom I began my career as a wage worker, with whom I spent twenty seven consecutive years—the complete span of my young manhood—as a co employee  labor organizer and union official, and for whom I shall have an affectionate regard of peculiar tenderness that will end only with my days.

The very relation I bear them inspires me with the liveliest sense of obligation to that great body of brave and brawny men whose hands, as hard as their hearts are soft, first grasped my own in welcome as a recruit to the great army of toil; whose honest faces, beaming with approval, first warmed my heart and stirred my blood, and whose applause, the first I ever knew, fired my boyhood years with high resolves. In every dark and trying hour these comrades of my early years stood staunch and true and pushed me on and raised me up that others might see my face and know my name, while they remained unnoticed, unapplauded, the soldiers of obscurity, the rank and file, the power class, the common herd, who made and move this world and who should be, and will yet be, its ruling aristocracy.

I believe it can be said with truth, as I am sure it can without vanity, that I personally know, and am personally known to, more railroad employees than any other man in the country; and with equal truth, I believe, that the great majority who know me better than this, the whole body of them, with but few exceptions feel kindly toward me, and may be claimed as my personal friends.
In all my travels—and I have been moving almost continually these twelve years past, over all the railways of the continent, especially since the railway corporations forcibly divorced me from their employees in all my travels I never made a trip, nor ever expect to, without feeling many times the touch of kindness, oft in stealth, of my old comrades of railroad days.

It is not, therefore, because of any lessening of our mutual regard that I am no longer in active touch with them, but because of the stern decree of fate which commanded me to go where they might not yet follow for a while, but where they will be found in good time, united with their class, and battling manfully for freedom.

I could yet be the “grand” officer of a railway brotherhood, have a comfortable office, a large salary, plenty of friends, including railway and public officials, and read my praises as an “ideal labor leader” in capitalist newspapers, but my convictions would not allow it, and so I had to resign and, having no choice about it, I am entitled to no credit for quitting a “good” position and plunging recklessly into “a career of folly, failure and disgrace.”

It was not easy to resign, and I had to insist upon it in a way that hurt me as much as it did the loyal brothers from whom I had to tear myself apart; and it has been the first and almost the only case of voluntary resignation from a similar position.

I had been with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen almost from its birth; had organized the Brotherhood of Railroad Brakemen, now the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen; had helped to organize the Switchmen’s Mutual Aid Association, the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, the Order of Railway Telegraphers, and other labor unions, and was now to organize, with half a dozen others, the American Railway Union, to embrace all railway workers, so that the engine wiper and section man might come in for their share of consideration as well as the engineer and conductor.

There is where I broke with the railway officials. They were perfectly willing that we should have a firemen’s union, but they were not willing for us to have a union that would unite all employes in the service in the equal interest of all.

This much by way of introduction. Now a word as to the purpose of this writing. I have something to say to the railway employes of America. It may not be considered as amounting to much, but I think it of importance enough to ask the railway workers to follow me through with patience, and think over what I have to say, at their own leisure.

You are told that I am too radical, that I am dangerous, that as a “leader” I am a failure, and a good many other things, but the time will come when you will know that from first to last I was true to you, and because of that very fact the corporations you work for warn you against me; and you will know furthermore that, for the opposite reason, most of your present leaders are not true to your best interests. They are “popular” with the public, and your railway officials sing their praises on every occasion and tell you over and again how wise and good these “leaders” are and how lucky you are and how proud you should be to command their valuable services.

Time will tell and I can wait. I am not courting your flattery nor evading your blame.
I am seeking no office; aspiring to no honors; have no personal ax to grind. But I have something to say to you and shall look straight into your eyes while saying it. I shall speak the truth as I see it no more and no less, in kindness and without malice or resentment.

I should tell you what I think you ought to know though all of you turned against me and despised me.
I am not wiser than you but have had more experience with capitalists and more chance to study their system of fleecing and fooling labor than most of you. I am not better than you—not so good, perhaps—for there is no better man on. earth than an honest working man. So I shall not preach to you, nor moralize to you, nor even venture to advise you, but I shall put a few facts before you that may temporarily disturb your digestion, but if you will stick to them and assimilate them you will feel yourself growing stronger and you will thank me for having changed your mental bill of fare.

Taken in the aggregate, there is no division of the working class more clannish and provincial, more isolated from other divisions of labor’s countless army, than railway employes, the workers engaged, directly and indirectly, in steam railway transportation. Nor is there a group or department in the entire working class that, outside of its own sphere of industrial activity, is more ignorant of the true essentials of the labor question or more oblivious of the class struggle and the fundamental principles and objects of the labor movement.
To verify this statement it is not necessary to refer to the unorganized, unskilled and poorly paid employes; on the contrary, let a dozen engineers and the same numbers of conductors, picked at random, be put upon the stand and catechized from a primer on economics and see what percentage of them can give even a definition of the term. They know how to run engines and trains and, as a rule, that is practically the limit of their knowledge. That is all the corporations want them to know, and, from their point of view, all they are fit to know.

It is true that they read journals published by their unions in which a five column account is given of a reception to some “noble grand chief,” and as many more columns about babies born and brothers buried, but which may be searched in vain for a line of revolutionary economics to nourish the brain, open the eyes, give cheer t the heart or aspiration to the soul of a corporation slave.

The several unions of railway employees  considered in any militant sense, are not labor unions at all. Warren S. Stone, grand chief of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, worthy successor of the late P. M. Arthur, is on record as having pledged his word to a well known railway manager that the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers should never go out on strike while he was its executive head. The same grand chief is on record as threatening John J. Hannahan, grand master of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, with keeping his engineers at work on the Northern Pacific system, virtually scabbing on the firemen, if the latter went out on strike.

If the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers was a bona fide labor union instead of the fossilized tool of railway corporations its grand chief would be peremptorily impeached for treason to the working class.
The Civic Federation Review loves to print the portrait of Mr. Stone and idealize him as a “leader of labor” worthy to sit at the feast with, and at the feet of, August Belmont, Andrew Carnegie, Archbishop Ireland, and the other millionaire labor exploiters who regard workingmen as sheep to be sheared and skinned and slaughtered, and asses to be harnessed and worked and whipped, and, from that point of view, the engineers and the rest of the railway unions are to be congratulated upon their astute leadership.

It is not that Mr. Stone is personally dishonest or corrupt; he may be, and I think he is, perfectly conscientious in what he says and does, and the same is doubtless true of the grand officers of the other railway unions, but that is not the question.
If workingmen are betrayed and defeated and made to suffer, it makes little difference if their misfortunes are due to dishonest, or ignorant and incompetent, leadership.
The question is not, Are these leaders honest? Let that be conceded. The question is, Are they true to the working class. If their official attitude does not square with the working class as a whole, then they are not in line with the true interests of their own union and are not in fact the friends, but the enemies of labor; not serving, but betraying those who trust and follow them.

In saying this and making the further statement that the existing railway brotherhoods are of far more actual benefit to the railway corporations than they are to the employees who support them, and that in some essential respects they are a positive detriment to their members in teaching them to venerate a “grand” officer, subjecting themselves, bound and gagged, to his “official sanction,” and in keeping them in economic ignorance—in saying these things, it is possible that Grand Chief Stone of the Engineers, and other “grand” officials may take issue; and here let me say that nothing would please me better than the chance to meet Mr. Stone before his engineers, or any other grand official before his followers, at any time, or in any public place, to prove every assertion herein made, and more, too; and I shall not object if the grand officers invite their friends, the railway officials, to occupy their accustomed seats on the platform, but I will not guarantee that the menu will be as agreeable to their corporation palates as that served at a recent Chicago banquet o the Order of Railway conductors, or at the average brotherhood convention.

Now to another branch of the question: According to the report of the interstate commerce commission there were, for the year ending June 30, 1904, a total of 1,206,121 employees on the railways of the United States, as against 1,017,653 in 1900, an increase in four years of 278,468. How many thousands of unemployed there are, ready to take jobs when they are offered, in event of a strike, or otherwise, the reports do not say. Since 1904 there has been great increase in railroad activities and it is probable that the total has since reached 1,400,000. In 1894 the number was 779,608. That was during the last period of “hard times.” In the ten years since, from 1894 to 1904, from “panic” to “prosperity,” the number of railway employees has been almost doubled, the actual increase being 620,392, an average over 60,00 a year. Fully five hundred thousand (500,000) new railroad men have been made in that time, and they have swelled the brotherhoods to unprecedented limits.
Now keep your eye “peeled” for the signal for the return trip from “prosperity” to “panic.”
That is not a matter of guess, but of arithmetic.
It may not come next month or next year, but it will come, and the longer it is in coming the longer will be the backward trip.

Railway employees  as a rule, do not know why there are alternating periods of “panic” and “prosperity”; panic that paralyzes, but prosperity that does not prosper, except for the plutocrats. The reason they do not know is that they are ignorant of working class economics, which are not discussed by their leaders, nor in their journals, and this accounts for the further fact that nearly all of them vote these sufferings upon themselves, as non political labor unionists uniformly do, while their unions, vaccinated by the corporation doctor against politics, becomes parties to “grand balls,” such as the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen has given in Chicago, and the “grand banquet” held by the Order of Railway Conductors in the same city, where the “grand march” is led by the capitalist mayor and a “grand” officer, and “grand” officials of the railroads beam approvingly, while “grand” corporation politicians disport themselves in huge diamonds and swallowtails and “grand” speeches are spouted about the “brotherhood of capital and labor,” the choicest lobster on the bill; the whole “green goods” affair being concocted by a tool of the corporations who belongs to the union and who, as a smooth politician, is on the payroll at the city hail, or the state house, or capitol. Such nauseating exhibitions—planned by sycophants and patronized by plutocrats—are given to hoodwink the common herd and keep it forever in the capitalist corrals of wage slavery.

Political conspiracy is the term to apply to these doings of the henchmen of capital, masquerading in the garb of labor, who are so fearful that their dupes may wake up and go into politics.
But to return for a moment. Keep your eye open for that signal! When Wall Street says the word you’ll see the signal, but it will not prevent you and your little union from going into the ditch. The signal and the slump will come together.
Several hundred thousand of you will be left high and dry; no jobs, but plenty of time to tramp and think. What next? Sweeping reductions of wages. Next—Strikes? Probably. And then? Defeat and disaster!
That’s the history of all the “panics” of the last thirty years. They have all been ushered in with widespread railroad strikes, and when the crash has come the brotherhoods have burst like bubbles and been crushed like eggshells, utterly powerless to give their members the least particle of protection. This is what has uniformly come to the unions that waste their time at such child’s play as “exemplification of secret work” and studying signs and passwords, as if every corporation did not have its union reporter to inform it of every move worth knowing.
And so it will be again. Mark it! Make a note of it! Ask your grand officer about it and make a note of his answer. Don’t allow him to dodge by calling me a calamity howler. He will help you after the lightning has struck your job by certifying that you are entitled to another, but you will have to hunt it alone, and in the meantime the “brotherhood of capital and labor” will have suspended and cannot save your wife from eviction, nor your children from starvation.
Think it out; don’t let go till you do! Don’t take my word; rely on yourself! I can’t help you railway slaves. You only can help yourselves. No one else can. If you don’t even know that you are slaves in the existing capitalist system, the gods have mercy on you, for your blindness is complete; your condition is pitiable and there is no hope for you but death.
The Most pathetic object to me is a corporation slave with a dazzling diamond or a constellation of brass buttons to decorate his deformity and hide the hollows in his gray matter. He swells like a toad as he talks about the good wages “we” are paying; he is a part of the corporation, as a pimple is a part of the plutocrat. He has hinges in his knees. He fawns like a spaniel at the feet of an official, but snarls like a cur at the car inspector or track man. He believes in the “brotherhood of capital and labor’; he is “conservative”; is opposed to politics in the union or the journal; talks about his masters as “our superiors”; is proud of his pusillanimity; does with alacrity what he is ordered to do and asks no questions; is a scab at heart, if not in fact; has no trace of manhood, no self-respect, no honor craven hearted and stonysouled—and when he dies Judas Iscariot will have another recruit for his army of the damned.

In his address to the joint committee of the several brotherhoods of railway employees that called at the White House on November 14, 1905, to plead in behalf of the railway corporations, President Roosevelt among other things, said: “I would be false to your interests if I failed to do justice to the capitalist as much as to the wage worker.”
The president was much impressed by the delegation and the delegation by him. The president was really addressing his own brethren, for, like themselves, he was a brotherhood man, and had the grip, sign and passwords, all up to date; and they were all agreed that no injustice must be done to the poor capitalists. The latter themselves were not in evidence. Their president and their brotherhoods would see that no harm came to them.
In his message to the banquet of the Order of Railway Conductors, given at Chicago on December 31, 1905, in behalf of the railroad corporations, and presided over by Major (?) B. B. Ray, paymaster, U. S. A., in recognition of his faithful services in lining up railway employees in support of the corporation ticket on election day, and as smooth a politician as ever came down the avenue—in his communication to this corporation auxiliary, regretting his inability to mingle with the railway presidents and managers who were in attendance to point around at the conductors as evidence that the working class in general, and the railway slaves in particular, were opposed to rate legislation in his telegram of regret Vice President Fairbanks, once himself a railroad attorney and now a magnate, said:
”The Order of Railway Conductors * * * recognizes in full degree the right of both employer and employee and understands full well that in a large sense the interests of one are the interests of the other, and that the interests of neither can be disregarded without harm to both.”
Precisely! “Our interests are one,” exclaimed the fox, after devouring the goose. “Same here,” answered the hawk, with the feathers of the dove still clinging to his beak. “I’m with you,” chipped in the shark; and 18
”I congratulate you upon your wise political economy” was the amen of the lion as the lamb’s tail disappeared down the red lane.
Toastmaster Ray, the mortgaged major of the railroads, read another telegram of regret from President “Jim” Hill, of the Great Northern, and then President Delano, of the Wabash, was introduced and proceeded to orate on “Opposition to Railroad Rate Legislation.” The dummies are reported to have nodded in hearty approval every time he looked at them. President Delano might have stayed at home and used a string to operate his puppets.
Upon this important point of “identity of interests,” between lion and mutton, President Roosevelt, vice President Fairbanks and all the railroad presidents, corporations and brotherhoods are a unit.
The railroads furnish the lion and the brotherhoods the mutton.
It is upon this false basis, this vicious assumption, this fundamental lie, that the railroad brotherhoods are organized, and in that capacity they are of incalculable value to the railroads, the very bulwarks of their defense, and the sure means of keeping the great body of railway employees in economic ignorance, and, therefore, unorganized, divided and helpless.
Such unionism means organized strength for the railroads and organized weakness for the employees  And the latter foot the bill. No wonder their grand officers get annual passes and their delegates free trains. The stupid employees pay for them all an hundredfold.
And to what base purpose the railroad magnates put these brotherhoods to still further entrench their power and perpetuate their reign of robbery!
At this very moment they are using them as political pokers to stir up the fire of public sentiment against rate legislation. And the poor dupes that pay the dues don’t even know that their unions are in politics, corporation politics, the dirtiest of all politics.
On their own account the unions are forbidden to have anything to do with politics that would fracture their delicate diaphragm—but when the corporations need them as political tools—ah, that’s different; that’s what they are for!
Can not you hoodwinked railway slaves begin to see something?
In all the history of organized labor, from the earliest times to the present day, no body of union workingmen ever served in a more humiliating and debasing role than that in which the railway unions appear at this very hour before the American people and the world.
It is a spectacle for the gods, and future generations will marvel that such an exhibition of servility was possible in the twentieth century.
Union workingmen, rallying round the robbers of the working class, and defending them against their own people!
It is true that there is nothing in rate legislation for the workingman, but the incident loses none of its significance on that account. The free use of the brotherhoods by and for the corporations, at election time, when the legislature meets, when congress is in session, whenever and wherever required—that is the point.
How smoothly this emergency appliance works!
The corporations sniff danger: they send for their officials the officials for the “grand chiefs” of the brotherhoods the “grand chiefs” for their decoy ducks, and presto! a joint committee—and it is . “joint” committee—serves notice on the president and the country that the million and more railway employees want no interference with the divine right of the railroad robbers to hold up, the people. Then another set of political tools of the same robbers take their cue and bound to their feet in the capitalist congress and in a serio comic burst of paid for passion, exclaim: “Don’t you see, gentlemen, that organized labor, the horny handed nobility of the land, the muscle and sinew, the very backbone of the nation, recognizes this measure as a menace to its “full dinner pail” and interposes its righteous indignation? Gentlemen, we dare not make such an assault upon the dignity, the sacred rights, aye, the very life of honest toil!”
That settles it! The trick is done. The Goulds, Vanderbilts and Harrimans are on top, their slaves at the bottom, and their “identity of interests” is once more triumphantly vindicated.
I propose now to deal briefly with that ghastly lie itself.
In what way, Mr. Railroad Slave, is your interest identical with that of “Jim” Hill, your master?
He owns the railway system that you workingmen built and now operate.
He pulls every dollar of profit out of it for himself he can, and leaves you not one dollar more than he must.
If you don’t suit him, he discharges you, and you then have to pull up stakes and hunt another master. He gets the lion’s share, you get what’s left; and in the aggregate that is fixed by what is required to fill your dinner pail, cover you with overalls and maintain a habitation where you can raise more wage slaves to take your place when you are worn out and go to the scrap heap.
The “Jim” Hills live out of your labor—out of your ignorance—for if you were not densely stupid you would not be their dumb-driven cattle.
Now they and their politicians and preachers and “labor leaders” tell you how bright and smart you are to flatter your ignorance, and keep you from opening your eyes to your slavish condition, and above all, to the wage-system, which lies at the bottom of your poverty and degradation.
Your interests as wage slaves are not only not identical with’ but are directly opposed to, the interests of the “Jim” Hills and the railroad corporations, and I challenge any of your “grand chiefs” to deny it in my presence on any public platform.
You have got to get rid of the capitalist leeches that suck your heart’s blood through the quill of “identity of interests.”

They are in the capitalist class; you are in the working class. They gouge out profits; what’s left you get for wages. They perform no useful work; you deform your bodies with slavery. They are millionaires; you are paupers. They have everything; you do everything. They live in palaces; you in shanties. They have abundance of leisure and mountains of money; you have neither. Finally, they are few; you are legions!
Poor, dumb giant, you could in a breath extinguish your pigmy exploiter, were you only conscious of your overmastering power!

The workers made and operate all the railroads; the capitalists had and have nothing to do with either. They pocket the proceeds on a basis of watered stock and other “stock,” in the form of employees  and then issue fraudulent reports to show on what a small margin of profit they are actually doing business.
In this connection it should be said that the railroads pad their “operating expenses” outrageously to deceive their employes and the general public, and their reports can be shown to be full of duplicity and fraud. They are not required to itemize their “operating expenses” in their reports to the interstate commerce commission; this they only do in the reports of the directors to the stockholders, and an examination of these will disclose the swindle and show how much reliance can be placed in the public reports of private grafters.
Mr. Railway Slave, to resume our interview, you are not in the same class with the “Jim” Hills of the railroads. You don’t visit at their homes; nor they at yours. You don’t ride in their private cars and yachts and automobiles. Your wives don’t wear the same kind of clothes and jewelry and move in the same circle with theirs. You don’t join them in their luxuriant travels to Europe when they are received by the crowned heads and other parasites and given a private audience by the pope. You stay at home and sweat and suffer to foot all the bills; they do all the rest.

To sum up: They are in the capitalist class; you in the working class. They are masters; you slaves. They fleece and pluck; you furnish the wool and feathers.
That is the basis of the class struggle.

Upon that basis you have got to organize and fight before you can move an inch toward freedom.
You have got to unite in the same labor union and in the same political party and strike and vote together, and the hour you do that, the world is yours.

The railroads will oppose this; they want to keep you divided and at their mercy. Your grand officers will oppose it; they want to keep you divided and continue to draw their salaries. When you have a little time figure out the amount annually paid to the grand officers of the railway unions in salaries and expenses, and you will be amazed; you will also understand why railroad employees will never get together as long as their grand officers can prevent it.
By the way, why do you persist in calling your officers “Grand Chiefs” and “Grand Masters”? Are they “grand” because you are petty?

The working class, the rank and file, are grander than all the labor leaders, good and bad, that ever lived.
A “Master” implies slaves. It is bad enough to be slaves without glorying in it. A “Master’ is bad enough; a “Grand Master” is the limit, especially if the title is voluntarily conferred by the slaves.
There was a time when I did not realize this and many other things I now do. The difference is that I have learned to think and can now see these things as they are.
The capitalist class! The working class!

The class struggle! These are the supreme economic and political facts of this day and the precise terms that express them.
These are the grim realities in the existing capitalist system, and the sooner you drop your brotherhood toys and deal with the labor question, to which most of you are strangers, the better will it be for you.
What is the labor question?
It is the question of the working class organizing to overthrow the capitalist class, emancipating itself from wage slavery and making itself the ruling class of the world.
Can this be done?
Anything can be done by the working class.
Labor has but to awaken to its own power. Then the earth and all its fullness will be for labor. Now the exploiters of labor have it; and they must be put out of business and into useful service.
First of all, you railroad workers, you million and almost a half of slaves, must wake up; realize that you are a part of the working class and that the whole working class must unite, close up the ranks and present a solid front, every day in the year, election day especially included.
As individual wage slaves you are helpless and your condition hopeless. As a class, you are the greatest power between the earth and the stars. As a class, your chains turn to spider webs and in your presence capitalists shrivel up and blow away.
The individual wage slave must recognize the power of class unity and do all he can to bring it about.
That is what is called class consciousness, in the light of which may be seen the class struggle in startling vividness.
The class conscious worker recognizes the necessity of organization, economic and political, and of using every weapon at his command the strike, the boycott, the ballot and every other to achieve his emancipation.
He, therefore. joins the union of his class and the party of his class and gives his time and energy to the work of educating and lining up his class for the struggle of his class for emancipation.
may think you are doing this now, but you are not. You are wasting most of your time and money for that which will bring n returns.
Let me tell you a few things the railroad corporations and your leaders, between whom there is an “identity of interests,” are having you do to occupy your time and keep you chained to the kennels of your masters.
First—They have you divided into petty groups, each trying to be it, and not one having any real power for working class good.
Second—They have you quarreling about jurisdiction and about an “open door,” and the corporations smile serenely while you play with these toys.
Your jurisdiction squabbles never will be settled, but will grow worse. At places the B. L. E. and B. L. F. are at swords’ points, and the 0. R. C. and B. R. T. are ready to fly at each other’s throats; and so intense is the petty craft jealousy that they are ready to scab on one another.

And if they ever go out on strike, particularly the B. L. E., their own former members, victimized by them, will rise up to smite them.
The other day I met a man who had an official position that paid him $5,000.00 a year. Said he to me: “I will quit this job for but one thing, and that will be to take an engine when the B. L. E. go out on strike.” He used to be a member.

There are any number of men scattered over the country—most of them its own former members—waiting for the B. L. E. to strike, and the day is not distant when that union will reap the harvest it has sown.
Third—You are kept apart from other workers, for it would be dangerous if you affiliated with them and go an idea above the roundhouse or caboose or cab you work in. Besides, you might get class conscious and that would endanger your slavery.

Fourth—You spend your hours in the lodge room, “riding the goat,” getting the secret work “down fine,” giving “passwords” and “signs,” and unpacking job lots of “secret work” that any railroad official in the country can have any day he wants it.

These are but bibs and rattles for mental babies, and the more time you amuse yourselves with them the less danger there is of your thinking about anything that will break your chains and set you free.
These are a few of the things; I have not space for more. The hundreds of columns of stale stuff rehashed for years in your journals that might be called goose gossip would, perhaps, be excusable in the official organ of some feeble minded asylum, but it is woefully out of place in a working class publication.
Now let me say a few more things and space will allow only a few of the many that might be put down that you may think about at your leisure.

It is called success because the corporations make some concessions to it so as to use it as a battering ram against other employees in the service; and this is substantially true of all the brotherhoods. Then, again, the brotherhoods are used against each other.
The union switchmen on the Denver and Rio Grande, at Pittsburg and other places; the engineers on the C., B. & Q. the telegraph operators on the A. & P., M., K. & T., Great Northern and Northern Pacific; and the machinists on the Santa Fe are but a few of the long list of victims of the “dog eat dog” unionism, a quarter of a century behind the times.
But the grand officers of the several unions attend one another’s conventions and join in solemn chorus in telling the delegates of each other’s unions what wise grand officers they liave, how kind the corporations are to them, and how proud they ought to be of their noble brotherhoods.
In the next few years locomotive engineers will become motormen and firemen will disappear. It is safe to say that in another twenty years locomotive firemen will be practically of the past. They can then cling to their last straw—their insurance policy—and that is the main thing that holds them together today. But for that they would soon cave in, and that is true of them all. They are then, primarily, coffin clubs and not labor unions. They care for the sick and bury the dead—a good thing, incidentally, for the corporations. To get the full benefits, it is necessary to be maimed or killed.
It is well to bury the dead, but the living are infinitely more important.
One effective blow to break the chains of wage slavery is better than a century of attention to dead bodies.
Class consciousness is better than corpse consciousness.
A good deal more that should be said must be omitted for the want of time and space.
It is my hope that the facts here presented may lead the railroad workers to study the real labor question. A few of them only know what Socialism is, and they are Socialists. The rest are opposed to it because the little they know about it is not true.
No honest workingman understands Socialism without embracing it.
The paper in which they originally read this address, the Appeal to Reason, with a circulation of over three hundred thousand copies, can be obtained for a trifle fifty cents for a whole year and if they can’t afford that, they can send ten cents for a trial subscription.
They cannot afford to remain in ignorance of the class struggle, or of what Socialism really means.
A mighty social revolution is impending it is shaking the earth from center to circumference, and only the dead may be deaf to its rumblings.
Revolutionary education and organization is the vital need of the working class.
Let every railroad employee who is alive enough to want to know how the working class can emancipate the working class and walk the earth free, and enjoy all its manifold blessings, subscribe for a revolutionary paper and read it for a year; and he will then find himself with the rest of us, in class conscious array, in the struggle for freedom.
Great is the privilege we enjoy in being permitted to take part in this mighty historic struggle.
The base and cowardly will sneer and sneak to the rear, but the brave and true, though hell itself gape, will do battle with all the blood in their veins, and write their names in living letters on the shining scroll of LABOR’S EMANCIPATION.