The Democratic Socialists of America call on Biden and members of Congress to force the billionaire railroad bosses to accept workers’ demands. Short of that, railroad workers must not be denied the right to strike. The Tentative Agreement has been rejected by members of the Maintenance of Way Union (BMWE), Sheet Metal and Rail Union (SMART-TD), Signalmen (BRS), and Boilermakers union (IBB), and though some union ratification votes supported it, the approval margins were narrow. All rail unions have pledged to honor the picket line in the event of a strike.
The billionaire bosses of the five largest railroads have paid themselves $200 million over the last few years. This profit has been made off the backs of workers, who are not even guaranteed a single paid sick day in their contract, risk being fired for unscheduled absences, and are forced to work long hours with short notice. Workers should control the conditions of their workplace! They should be able to work with dignity and at a pace that does not mandate exhaustion or sacrifice their health. The power of this unionized workforce comes in their ability to strike if their demands are not met, and yet President Biden is asking Congress to preemptively deny them the right to legally strike. It is exceedingly rare for a president to intervene to prevent a strike against private companies, and it is not the workers but the bosses of these private rail carriers who are threatening our national economy. Rail carriers have formed an oligarchical cartel that controls the supply chain.
Exhausting conditions overburden rail workers and staffing rates continue to decline. Longer, more dangerous trains risk derailments that threaten workers’ lives and the safety of our communities. Price-gouging shippers causes costs to be passed to working-class consumers already suffering from rising cost of living. These oligarchs are counting on Congress to force a deal that will only exacerbate existing supply chain issues and cause further economic distress for the entire working class, all so billionaires can continue to rake in profits.
Any member of Congress who votes yes on the tentative agreement is siding with billionaires and forcing a contract on rail workers that does not address their most pressing demand of paid sick days. Democrats claim to want to save democracy. There’s nothing more democratic than workers having a say over their own lives. By refusing to side with workers and respect their vote to reject a bad deal, the Democrats will create an opportunity for the Right to fill that void with false promises and further drive working people from politics during particularly crucial moments.
We know no matter what party is in office, true power comes from organizing workers. Our focus should not be on the disruptions to business as usual but rather on the injustice that these workers have faced for years. As socialists, we know the resolve of these workers will be the only way forward to saving this country’s infrastructure (nationalize the rails!) and most importantly, securing dignity at the workplace in an industry that keeps the rest of the country afloat. The Democratic Socialists of America stands in solidarity with the 125,000 railroad workers fighting for a better quality of life: a fair contract or a strike!