ive here. I don’t think enough bad can be said about Biden’s rail strike tightening. When you translate the justification for 1% workers like Biden and Pelosi, they amount to “essential workers should suffer because of donor profits.” This is just a paraphrase of Lambert’s first two tenets of neoliberalism:
1. Because the markets
2. Go die
It is also worth noting that some unions are speaking out about the deal. But that’s all they’re willing to do is grumble. After tolerating the sell-outs of the Democratic Party for decades, this betrayal should come as no surprise.
Written by Sonali Kolhatkar, award-winning multimedia journalist. She is the founder, host, and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a weekly radio and television program that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. Her next book is Rise Up: The Power of Narrative in the Pursuit of Racial Justice (City Lights Books, 2023). She is a Writing Fellow of the Economy for All Project at the Independent Media Institute and Editor of Racial Justice and Civil Liberties at Yes! magazine. She serves as co-director of the nonprofit solidarity organization Afghan Women’s Mission and is co-author of a book Afghanistan bleeds. She also sits on the board of the Justice Action Center, an immigrant rights organization. Produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute
The US Senate acted in a rare show of unity recently in voting 80-15 to pass a bill that would force railroad workers to accept their employers’ contract offer without striking. There was no such unity to pass an amendment introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that would have given railroad workers seven days of paid sick leave. This bill did not pass despite 52 senators voting in favor of it, because it fell short of the required 60-vote threshold.
According to the Brotherhood of Railroad Signals, “nearly every elected member of Congress fights to be ‘for the working class.'” But in response to the failure to pass the sick leave amendment, the Brotherhood noted that Congress’s actions “showed they are for the corporate class.” “.
The Muslim Brotherhood is among several unions representing just over 100,000 people working in the railroad industry. That’s more than half of all railroad workers in the United States According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Because trains run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, railroad workers’ schedules may vary to include nights, weekends, and holidays. Most work full time, Some work more than 40 hours a week. A job so crucial that the entire American economy depends on it pays a median salary of less than $65,000 annually with no paid sick leave at all.
Explaining why Congress felt it necessary to pass a bill that would make railroad workers’ strike for better conditions illegal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “A railroad shutdown across the country would be disastrous — a shutdown would bring our economy to a halt, and the whole family would be stressed.” “. President Joe Biden similarly explained that congressional intervention in averting the rail strike would help avoid “devastating economic consequences for workers, families and communities across the country.”
Devastated economy WorkersClearly letting them pay less for a high-pressure job with no sick days.
Instead of using its power to compel private railroad companies to grant paid sick leave to railroad workers, Congress used the tools of its power to side with the powers of the companies rather than the workers. It has chosen to raise profits at the expense of workers’ needs.
The cost of such earnings is tangible and insignificant. Sanders pointed out in a November 29 tweet that “Ensuring 7 paid sick days for railroad workers would cost the railroad industry a grand total of $321 million annually – less than 2 percent of its profits.” “Railway companies spent $25.5 billion on share buybacks and dividends this year,” he added.
To help the private railroad companies generate $321 million in profits annually, Congress and the president inserted themselves into contract negotiations and sold off more than 100,000 workers.
As President Biden said in September 2021, “It is my intention to be the most pro-union president in leading the most pro-union administration in American history.” But nearly 30 years ago as a US senator—on the railroad industry question in particular—he was much more pro-labor than he is today, and became one of only a handful of senators to vote against averting a rail strike. Then-Senator Biden, explaining his “no” vote, He said in 1992I… worry that we’re rewarding a coordinated decision for the railroads [to negotiate in bad faith] It would have caused frantic expressions of anger on the part of the industry had the unions taken a similar step.”
Today’s congressional intervention is already rewarding the private railroad industry that has engaged in a relentless attempt to cut costs in the service of profits.
The corporate media, whose business model aligns with the railroads, disproportionately amplified pro-industry talking points for lawmakers. But what do the trade unions say?
The International Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers Association, one of the participating unions, said it “does not support the idea of Congress intervening in our collective negotiations to prevent a strike.”
Instead, the union said, “If Congress really wants to take action to improve the industry for our members, we recommend legislation that will work to reverse the devastation of the precision scheduled rail.” [PSR]. “
Buried near the end of one article, the Associated Press explained the gist of the PSR without mentioning it by name, saying that “the railroad industry has severely cut costs everywhere and shifted its operations to rely more on fewer, longer trains that use fewer locomotives and fewer employees.” .
According to the Union Pacific Railroad (UP), this method “keeps inventory (and supply chains) moving.” UP promotes “the benefits of PSR to shippers and recipients,” who are the company’s primary customers. The company does not mention at all the losses inflicted by the “efficiency” on its employees.
Congress could have used its power to force the railroad companies to address the impact of the PSR on workers. But instead, it used its power to accompany the profits of the corporate railroad industry. It is a basic assumption of how our society and our government is structured that any interference with obtaining profit is seen as a threat to the economy.
No wonder the railroad workers feel betrayed. A Chicago worker named Rhonda Ewing told the New York Times before the congressional vote, “We know it’s time for a recess, which is why it’s the perfect time to raise our voices. If Biden participates, he removes our leverage.”
So soon after the 2022 midterm elections and far enough away from the 2024 presidential election, lawmakers have little concern about losing re-election bids based on their voting record. This indicates that Congress and the President have timed the vote to maximize they political influence.
But it is unlikely that the railway workers will ever forget the betrayal of the government. “Political pandering and showmanship by elected officials in the railway pockets will neither diminish our resolve nor remove the respect that every Signalman owes to keeping the economy afloat on a daily basis,” the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmenin stated in a press release.
And other workers who are increasingly standing in solidarity with each other in an economy clearly rigged in favor of wealthy corporate employers are also angry. For example, the National Day Workers’ Organizing Network accused Biden of siding with “wealthy employers,” and affirmed support for unions, saying, “We will always be in solidarity with all workers.”
Unions draw battle lines, and demand that the government overturn the script of those who are supposed to benefit the national economy.
“The federal government has inserted itself into the dispute between railroads and railroad workers under the premise that it must protect the American economy,” wrote Tony D. Cardwell, president of BMWED-IBT, one of the railroad unions involved in negotiating contracts. “However,” he said, “when the federal government makes this decision, its representatives have a moral responsibility to protect the interests of the citizens who make this nation’s economy work—the forerunners of America’s railroads.”
In other words, we need an economy that works for the people, not the other way around.
He warned Cardwell that the legislators’ actions were “nothing short of anti-American, and abdicating their oath of office,” and that “you are, in my view, deemed unworthy to hold office.”