Chicago - Labor Day 2014 - Pullman
120 years ago Eugene Victor Debs stood six blocks from here at Langley Park and pledged the support of his brand new union, the American Railway Union to the struggle of the Pullman car builders. The ARU had just decisively defeated the Great Northern Railway in 18 days preventing a 10% wage cut. Now, this same company the Burlington Northern Sante Fe, is demanding concessions just as drastic. I came here today to ask you to help these present day rail workers in this fight.
Take a look at those tracks west of this building. You see that the freight trains are as long as 2 miles, with more than a hundred cars, including oil, explosive chemicals, even radioactive materials. But if the BNSF RR gets its way, in just 4 months, there won't be 5 crew members as there was 25 years ago, nor 4 or 3 or even the present day 2 crew members-an engineer and a conductor but only one lone employee in the engine! That’s right, on July 16, The BNSF and Warren Buffet along with the SMART (sheet metal and transportation Union General Chairman’s committee), behind the backs of the membership, sprang a tentative agreement on them which would eliminate all conductors from the locomotives, putting them in a van somewhere on the ground and leaving the engineer alone to run the train! If this passes in 7 days, that will be the result.
I ask you, how will you like it when you hear the hundreds of cars rumbling through Pullman (and you may hear one before I finish this speech), past your houses, your children s schools and your parks operated by one person forced to work 12 hour days, on call 7 days a week, 365 days a year, sometimes 28 days a month! Up to ninety per cent of the conductors will be eliminated and forced to train as engineers so they too can work alone. The company claims that a GPS type satellite system, not yet implemented, which doesn't work yet, will keep you and your family safe.
But the workers have not been taken in by promises of bonuses and job security or frightened by the defeatist union leadership. These workers are seeing for themselves, thinking for themselves and organizing each other. They have built a network including RWU and other groups such as spouces and families against single person crews and have argued for a no vote across the country. From Seattle to Spokane, Kansas city to Lincoln to Creston Iowa and
Cicero, here near Chicago, in informational meetings, they are campaigning for a no vote. The bureaucrats have gone so far as to cancel meetings, call hotel security on us supporters and even call the cops on their own members! I hope next week, this attempt will be defeated, but you can bet Warren and his boys will be back for another try.
On the railroads in 2014, we are slaves as we were when Gene Debs was here in Pullman. How can we be anything else when it has been established by both democrats and republicans that congress will pass a law each time to prevent us from using what should be our sacred right to strike?
I appeal to you now to build a coalition of community members, environmentalists who want a safe planet and the rest of labor to support these modern day Pullman workers in their fight!
What a more fitting tribute to the legacy of A Philip Randolph, Eugene V Debs, and the generations of brave fighters from right here in the Pullman neighborhood, would it be, to continue the struggle for goals long sought but not yet achieved, for respect, pride and a decent life for railroad and all working people everywhere we live.
Railroad Workers United