Friday, August 29, 2014

Labor Day message from Railroad Workers United

Labor Day 2014:

Railroad Workers are on the Move!

Dear Railroad Sisters & Brothers:

Whether you are off work or on the job on Monday, please take the time to honor, remember and celebrate Labor Day. This is our day! 

So much of what we workers take for granted today -- overtime pay, holiday pay, vacations, sick leave, workers’ comp and FELA, railroad retirement, safer working conditions, the basic 8-hour day, seniority and more – only came about because workers came together, organized and fought for these things collectively. If it were not for our solidarity, we would have none of the above, and there certainly would be no such thing as Labor Day itself.

But Labor Day has mostly become a day for picnics and barbeques, political stumping and speech making, posturing and "remembering" our heritage. 

But what if we were to put some life into Labor Day? 

What if we were to take joint actions with our allies who understand that single employee crews are a danger to all? What if we were to show the corporations, their politicians and union leaders that we are not simply going to "honor and remember" on Labor Day? What if we were to show our power, and picket, demonstrate, strike and occupy?

The last few weeks have witnessed the awakening of rail labor.

 In response to the suicidal tentative agreement on the BNSF, railroaders have mobilized like we haven’t in years. Many have found their voice, and have expressed themselves loud and clear that they will not accept single employee operations of trains. Engineers and trainmen – together with other crafts – have come together and staged raucous meetings, pickets, rallies and demonstrations all designed to defeat the tentative agreement that would open the door to single employee train operations.

Given the breadth and scope of this extraordinary fight back movement, we expect the BNSF tentative agreement to be soundly defeated. But whether it is adopted or rejected, the cat is out of the bag. The cards are now squarely on the table. The Class I rail carriers have made clear their desire and intent to run road trains with a single employee … and our unions have shown themselves to be hopelessly divided and ill-equipped to wage the battle necessary to defend our safety and our jobs.

So while we rank and file workers continue to fight with everything we have to defeat this attack, we understand that this fight is simply but one battle in the war. Once the votes are counted – win or lose – railroad workers must go on the offensive. We are under a vicious attack brothers and sisters! We can no longer hide our heads in the sand and pretend that everything will be OK.

So let’s stop crying and whining about our jobs. Let’s no longer sit on our hands and hopelessly wait for some politician, government agency or union official to solve our problems for us. Let’s take the bull by the horns, speak out and act together, make our demands known, and let our power be realized. If we are to defeat the single employee crew initiative, it is going to be us – the rank and file railroad workers – who do it.

On this Labor Day, you will see lots of American flags flying. You will hear lots of politicians bucking for your vote. And you will see lots of hot dogs frying on the grill. But please remember, all this has little to do with the true spirit of Labor Day. This day is really about working people and our struggle – through strikes, boycotts, picket lines, sit-ins, occupations and more – to further the cause of rank-and-file workers. RWU is proud to be part of that great tradition of working people fighting back against corporate power. We invite you to join us in the fight. The future is now.

Solidarity forever!

Ron Kaminkow
RWU General Secretary

Monday, August 25, 2014

We Railroad Workers Must Set the Terms of Engagement

We Railroad Workers Must Set the Terms of Engagement

Do we settle for what the carriers are willing to give us when it comes to our safety, dignity and quality of life; or do we organize ourselves, to empower ourselves to demand that which we as workers, much less human beings, are entitled to? This is the question that I posed at the end of my commentary in the previous issue of The Highball (see Spring 2014, "The Rail Carriers' Attacks; the Unions' Response; and RWU").

I submit that in the forty years that I've been railroading, we have essentially been reduced to settling for whatever the carriers are gracious enough to give us. In this series of commentaries that began with the Fall 2012 issue of this newsletter, I have attempted to tell the story of the decline and degeneration of our working conditions over the last thirty plus years, as well as to analyze how and why this has been accomplished. (For those new to The Highball, past issues are available at our website 

"What can we do now?" has become a common question among a growing layer of railworkers around the country. RWU does not claim to have all the answers. There is no quick fix to the state we are in. We are up against powerful adversaries in the carriers and the government. Both Democratic and Republican politicians alike virtually rubber stamp the corporate agenda when we, through our unions, refuse to bow down.

The concept of one national agreement for rail workers has been obliterated with more and more "On Property" agreements. When the leadership of the rail unions allowed the unions to be busted at the Florida East Coast Railway in the mid 1960's, that crushing blow laid the groundwork for the state of fragmentation that exists today along with the proliferation of non-union "short lines".

Speaking of fragmentation, to the vast majority of railworkers, it is obvious that being split up into thirteen different craft unions instead of all rail workers being organized into one industrial union, severely weakens our ability to resist the carriers' attacks. Rail workers are the poster children for the concept of "divide and conquer".

To their credit, the BLE-T home page prominently features a link to the Teamster Nation blog: "Get the latest update in the War on Workers". By logical extension those waging "war" on us can fairly be qualified as the "enemy". With that in mind, the Railway Labor Act (RLA) gives the carriers the right to flagrantly violate our contracts and agreements, then dictate to us how we can defend ourselves. "Do as your told, file your grievance later." They attempt to
dictate how we fight for safety with the union backed Behavior Based Safety Committees. In essence, the
“enemy” dictates to us what "weapons" we are allowed to use to defend ourselves from their "assault" on us. Establishing these exponentially disproportionate lopsided terms of engagement would not have been such a walk in the park without the unconditional acceptance of these terms by the national leadership of our unions over the preceding decades up to the present.

At Canadian Pacific, the management has made tremendous progress in virtually imposing a significant portion of Canadian National style (U.S.) working conditions in advance of the negotiations in an attempt to "sell" the agreement they are determined to ram down our throats.

The atmosphere feels like a combination of a slave plantation and an industrial prison camp. 

There is already a rumbling of, "How can we fight this when they are already having their way with us? We might as well take the big payoff  when it officially is on the table." The more prominent discussion is, "How can the unions allow this to happen?" My answer to that is simple. When you unconditionally allow the "enemy" to dictate the terms of engagement, what do you expect?

From the box at the bottom of page two of this issue of The Highball, where we summarize what Railroad Workers United is about: "We are carrying on a tradition of rank- and-file activity which dates back to the 1890's and the time of Eugene v. Debs." Our website has more on the legacy of Debs, his significance and relevance for us today. A quick reference can be found in two articles in the Summer 2013 issue of The Highball, "Rail Labor and Management: Our Interests are Diametrically Opposed" and "The Crisis of Leadership in Our Rail Unions - Part 1". Not only did Debs attempt to educate and inspire the working class, but most importantly he challenged the workers to study, learn and think for themselves about the relations between big business, the government and labor.

So what can we do now? The situation cries for some kind of  defensive response. Conquering an understanding of what drives the carriers' agenda and how they effortlessly impose it, combined with collectively empowering ourselves with the concept of entitlement, is necessary before we can successfully organize resistance. RWU strives to contribute to this long overdue process.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Solidarity Message from SUD RAIL France

Fédération des Syndicats de Travailleurs du Rail

Réseau Rail Sans Frontières

17 boulevard de la libération – 93200 – Saint DenisTel 01 42 43 35 75 - Fax 01 42 43 36


The SUD-Rail Unions Federation (France) with Rails Without Borders want to express their solidarity with RWU comrades and their demand for No Single Employee Crews.

In France, for many years, SNCF employees underwent several new  work managment that deteriorates their working conditions.
SNCF management, with the support of some local politicians, is trying to impose Single Employee Crews on passenger trains suppressing train conductors jobs.
We believe that this decision is dangerous for railroaders and passengers. Train conductors are essentials for the passengers safety.

In the USA, the Warren BUFFET billionaire owned BNSF freight carrier is trying to obtain an agreement to reduce Freight train crews from two to only one railroader, cutting conductors jobs.
The Single Employee Crews, combined with the 12 hours wordays would be dangerous for railroaders and communities, something that was unfortunately demonstrated by recent fatal accidents in North America.

We are expressing our support to the campaign you are leading for employees and communities safety respect by calling BNSF railroaders to vote against this dangerous agreement.

Pour la fédération des syndicats SUD-Rail et le Réseau Rails Sans Frontières :
Kaourantin Lamprière
Animateur de la commission Internationale SUD-rail
Nathalie Bonnet
Secrétaire fédérale.

St Denis le 13 août  2014

Fédération des Syndicats de Travailleurs du Rail
Réseau Rail Sans Frontières
17 boulevard de la libération – 93200 – Saint Denis
Tel 01 42 43 35 75 - Fax 01 42 43 36 67

Non aux trains à agents seuls :
Ni en Amérique du Nord        ni en France

La Fédération des syndicats SUD-Rail (de France) avec le Réseau Rails Sans Frontières souhaite témoigner de sa solidarité avec la juste revendication des camarades du RWU (Travailleurs du Rail Unis d'Amérique du Nord) : pas de trains à agents seuls.

En France, les agents de la SNCF subissent déjà depuis plusieurs années des réorganisations qui dégradent toujours plus leurs conditions de travail.
La direction de la SNCF, avec le soutien des élu-es politiques dans plusieurs régions tente de mettre en place depuis plusieurs années les trains « équipés » d’un seul agent en supprimant le contrôleur qui assure la sécurité et à la sûreté à bord des trains.
Nous considérons que cette décision met en danger les salarié-es et les voyageurs. La direction met en place ces réorganisations sans tenir compte des revendications des organisations syndicales, donc au mépris des salarié-es…

Aux Etats-Unis, l'entreprise ferroviaire BNSF possédée par le milliardaire Warren BUFFET tente d'obtenir un accord d'entreprise permettant de diminuer les équipes conduisant les trains de Fret de 2 à un seul cheminot soit la suppression de l'agent de manœuvre systématique accompagnant le conducteur.
Cette évolution couplée à des journées de conduites toujours très longues mettrait en danger les cheminots mais aussi la population comme l'ont malheureusement déjà démontré les récents accidents mortels en Amérique du Nord.

Aussi, nous vous exprimons notre soutien et apportons tous nos encouragements à cette campagne que vous menez pour le respect de la sécurité des salarié-es et de la population en appelant les cheminots de BNSF à voter NON à cet accord dangereux.

Pour la fédération des syndicats SUD-Rail et le Réseau Rails Sans Frontières :
Kaourantin Lamprière
Animateur de la commission Internationale SUD-rail
Nathalie Bonnet
Secrétaire fédérale.

St Denis le 13 août  2014