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Railroad and UC Workers Solidarity

By Steve Ongerth (with suggestions from Baltimore Red)- IWW Environmental Union Caucus, December 6, 2022

I gave the following speech at a rally on the UC Berkeley Campus (a video of the rally follows)

Fellow Workers, Comrades, and Friends:

My name is Steve Ongerth. I am a union mariner of over a quarter century (I am a member of the IBU, an ILWU affiliate, and the IWW); I grew up in a railroad family, and I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1994.

I am here today to deliver a message on behalf of Railroad Workers United (of which I am a solidarity member):

The Class One freight railroad bosses:

  • Have been reaping record profits for 25 years, and yet...
  • they are moving less freight than at any time since 2006;
  • they are swimming in money, while industry is contracting when it should be expanding due to its efficiency, and its potential as a major climate solution;
  • meanwhile, during that time, 30% of workforce has been lost in the last 4-5 years;
  • in spite of the potential for rail as a climate solution, the freight bosses are hostile to expansion of passenger trains;
  • in fact, the greed of the capitalist railroad bosses has grown so egregious, that the Class Ones have possessed off every major shipping group with their BS, thus even turning much of the capitalist class against them;

The "deal" brokered by Biden and rammed down the throats of the working class by the Republicans and Democrats alike won't solve the problem.

This is not only naked class war, it's a recipe for the complete implosion and meltdown of the nation's rail system.

The lack of paid time off will just induce more railroad workers to quit, and without their brains and muscles, not a single wheel can turn.

If the freight carriers cause their operations to grind to a standstill, due to a mass exodus of workers quitting, and the lack of ability to move freight, it will take passenger rail down with it, and it will destroy the US economy.

This is not just due to the naked greed of the railroad capitalists; it is due to the inescapable logic of the capitalist system which demands short term profit and capital accumulation at the expense of all else. Through their greed and capitalist illogic, they have created an inescapable quagmire that capitalism cannot solve.

The only solutions lie with meeting the workers' demands:

At the very least, President Joe Biden should sign an executive order mandating paid sick time for all federal employees and railroad workers;

However, that is just a shortterm stopgap, because the internal logic of the capitalist system will only induce the railroad bosses to continue to try and squeeze workers to death.

Therefore, we are left with the inescapable conclusion, that the nations railroad must be nationalized and the workers must run the system. If we don't, the nation's railroad network will collapse under its bosses' own greed, it will destroy the US economy, and it will render an essential climate solution inert and useless.

Granted, this is a huge lift, but the working class, organized collectively, is capable of achieving that. To start, I urge each and every one of you to go to and sign up. This fight is far from over.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

Thank you, Fellow Workers!

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author.

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