Stand with Railworkers, Build Workers Power

This fall, the majority of railroad workers rejected a tentative agreement (TA) brokered by their bosses and union leadership that would not include sick leave, an end to Precision Scheduled Railroading, and other fundamental improvements to their working conditions.

Railroad work is notoriously brutal. On-call nearly around the clock, workers suffer regular, often fatal, accidents due to overwork and exhaustion. And yet the TA lacks any paid sick leave, let alone the 15 days demanded by rank-and-file workers. 

Unions representing the majority of all rail workers rejected the deal. The eight other rail unions that did ratify the deal pledged to honor the picket line should other unions strike. 

Biden and his administration sold out workers when they imposed this terrible contract on railroad workers through the antiquated Railway Labor Act (RLA). 

We condemn the move by President Biden and Congress to force over 100,000 rail workers to accept the TA by denying them the legal right to strike – our ultimate leverage as workers under capitalism. 

When every major power in the country – the center, the right, and our laws – aligned against workers, DSA members in Congress introduced a legislative push for sick days, and forced a vote on the measure, which did not succeed.

We are proud of DSA member Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s vote against the TA, and for sick days. Any vote by Congress to impose a bad contract on workers sides with the boss, and contradicts democratic socialist values.

We disagree and are disappointed with the decision of DSA members Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Cori Bush to needlessly vote to enforce the TA.

The members are the union and a majority of members voted to reject the TA. Socialist electeds must stand with unions when they reject a TA. The vote to defend workers’ right to strike was an opportunity to further organize the public in solidarity with the railworkers. The left cannot afford to miss these moments! 

Both rail unions and their class enemies understand a rail strike would not only cost an estimated $2 billion per day, it would also awaken workers around the world to the power of withholding their labor.

The economy depends on workers, and we can decide we’re not going to take crumbs anymore. That’s exactly why Biden and the ruling class were so determined to prevent a strike. And that’s exactly why socialist politicians must support workers’ ability to organize and strike at all costs – no excuses.

As we approach significant labor struggles next year, DSA members in office must use their position to advance labor long before bills even make it to the floor by holding town halls and panels with rank-and-file workers, helping organize rallies in support of a better contract, fundraising for strike funds to embolden workers to take more militant action, reading the words of workers into the congressional record, and hosting press conferences encouraging constituents to see strikers as a model and organize in their own workplaces. The NPC commits to fight alongside them.

The National Political Committee will hold a mass call on the subject with our membership.

Politicians can use a nearly 100 year old byzantine law to impose bad contracts and make striking illegal, but politicians cannot drive the trains. Whatever choice the rank-and-file railroad workers decide upon, DSA stands in solidarity.

This week’s attack on working class self-determination should serve to remind us that our power comes from organization and our own agency in our workplaces and communities. Only workers can build militant, rank-and-file reform movements strong enough to win strong contracts.

If you are a worker looking to create a strong union in your workplace, join the Emergency Workers Organizing Committee at @organizeworkers. If you are a worker looking to transform your union into a militant union, read about our strategy to put power in the hands of the rank-and-file.