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A new coalition demands healthcare and justice for East Palestine

What Happened with the Rail Deal?

Socialize the Railways!

By Tom Wetzel - East Bay Syndicalists, November 13, 2023

The downward slide of the major (Class 1) American freight railroads in recent years shows how capitalist ownership of the railway system is dangerous and inefficient — and fails to make use of the potential of the railways as a solution to the global warming crisis.

Downward slide has been accelerated over the past decade due to the adoption of “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR). This has no precise definition but the aim is to reduce costs. As in “lean production” management theory, any expense not directly needed for profit is regarded as “waste.” PSR is a cost-cutting strategy that puts short-term profits for stockholders as the controlling priority. To maximize the rate of return, the railroads cut corners on maintenance, constantly work to reduce the number of railroad employees, and actively discourage shipments that are less profitable for them to haul. To keep Wall Street investors happy, they work to maximize short term profit. To enrich stockholders, the rail companies have poured billions of dollars into stock buybacks rather than invest in system improvements.

Rail Privatisation: 30 years of waste and rising fares

By staff - National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), November 5, 2023

As Britain ‘celebrates’ 30 years of rail privatisation, RMT reveals that the three-decade debacle has seen at least £31 billion leak out of the system, mostly into shareholders pockets, while passengers are paying 8% more in real terms to travel on a deteriorating system.

  • Renationalising the railway and creating a single, integrated publicly owned railway company would save around £1.5 billion every year which could be used to cut fares by 18%, helping to encourage more people back onto Britain’s railways.
  • At least £1.5 billion and very likely more leaks out of Britain’s railways every year in the form of profits extracted by train operating companies, rolling stock leasing companies, subcontractors and other costs that arise the fragmentation of the railways.1 Throughout privatisation, the annual outflow of funds would have enabled, on average, a cut of 14% in fares (Table 1.)
  • If the railways were nationalised now and the flow of funds into the private sector was cut off, the money saved would fund a cut of 18% in fares.
  • The cost of travelling by rail is now almost 8% higher in real terms than it was in 1995, before privatisation. This figure has dropped in the last two years only as inflation as risen above 13%. Until the cost-of-living crisis, when fare increases were decoupled from RPI inflation, fares were consistently 15-20% higher in real terms than before privatisation.

Download a copy of this publication here (PDF).

Putting America Back on Track: The Case for Public Rail Ownership

The Big Strike in Pennsylvania That No One is Talking About

Twenty-Five Thousand Auto Workers Are Now on Strike at the Big 3

By Luis Feliz Leon - Labor Notes, September 29, 2023

Seven thousand Auto Workers at two more assembly plants will walk off the job at noon ET today, UAW President Shawn Fain announced in a Facebook Live appearance this morning. Joining the strike are Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant and General Motors’ Lansing Delta Township Assembly in Michigan.

Fain announced that Stellantis would be spared this time. The union had been expected to expand the strike today at all three companies, but, said Region 1 Director LaShawn English, three minutes before Fain was scheduled to go on Facebook Live, the UAW received frantic emails from company representatives.

According to Fain, Stellantis made “significant progress” on the cost-of-living adjustment, the right not to cross a picket line, and the right to strike over product commitments and plant closures. “We are excited about this momentum at Stellantis and hope it continues,” Fain said.

Fain made clear that negotiations with all three companies are ongoing. “I’m still very hopeful that we can reach a deal that reflects the incredible sacrifices and contributions our members have made over the last decade,” he said to 60,000 viewers on Facebook. “But I also know that what we win at the bargaining table depends on the power we build on the job. It’s time to use that power.”

Transportation Webinar: Where is This Train Going? Freight Rail in the Public Interest

RWU Resolution Calling for Solidarity with UAW Workers

By Ross Grooters, Gabe Christianson, and Andrew Weir - Railroad Workers United, September 6, 2023

Whereas, the US labor movement, including the railroad unions, face many obstacles in the fight to reverse the long decline of low membership; and

Whereas, autoworkers represented by the UAW are a significant workforce in the country and are battling against the “Big Three” automakers; and;

Whereas, solidarity action by other workers and unions along the supply chain can be the decisive factor in any battle between workers and employers; and

Whereas, a victory for UAW workers could embolden all workers to go on the offensive to win better contracts; and likewise, a victory for the new leadership of the UAW could embolden all union members looking to reform and democratize their own unions; and

Whereas, RWU recognizes the power that railroad workers have to assist UAW workers, as automobiles manufactured at UAW plants are loaded onto “autorack” railcars and transported by train daily throughout the U.S.; and

Whereas, the fight for electrification of the auto industry to happen through good, union jobs, has parallels to the fight for electrification of the North American railroads; and

Whereas, the fight to build links with auto workers in Mexico and Canada to fight back against the outsourcing of jobs to non-union workforces has parallels with the fight for railroad workers to get organized across North America as the railroad systems of the US, Mexico, and Canada become increasingly integrated;

Therefore, Be it Resolved that RWU offers full solidarity in support of UAW workers in their fight for strong contracts; and

Be it Further Resolved that RWU suggests that UAW workers organize picket lines at the rail entrance of any auto facilities that receive rail service, and that RWU calls on railroad workers and our unions to refuse to cross any UAW picket lines, which is a basic principle of labor movement solidarity; and

Be it Finally Resolved that RWU urges all of rail labor to likewise stand in solidarity with our UAW fellow workers.

Adopted by the RWU Steering Committee, September 6, 2023

Ten-Week Strike Wins “Substantial Improvements” for Locals 506 and 618

By staff - United Electrical Workers, September 2, 2023

On June 22, after nearly two months of negotiations, the 1,400 members of UE Locals 506 and 618 voted down Wabtec’s last, best and final offer. Following the vote, second-shift workers marched out of the plant and UE members set up picket lines around the massive facility.

It was the second strike since Wabtec took over the facility from General Electric in 2019. Following a nine-day strike in 2019, the UE locals negotiated a first contract with the new company which preserved most of the conditions they had won over nearly eight decades of bargaining with GE. However, they reluctantly agreed to modifications in the grievance procedure and to lower wage rates for new hires, who would progress to the full “legacy” wage rates over ten years.

In their second contract, members sought to address both the inequities of the “progression” for new hires and the lack of accountability caused by Wabtec’s abuse of the grievance process over the past four years. The company simply refused to address issues in the plant, pushing everything to arbitration — a study by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found that grievances per worker had almost doubled since Wabtec took over, and the company was less likely to settle disputes than GE. Members were also keen to make up for their loss of purchasing power as inflation soared in the past two years.

As soon as the UE members walked out, support poured in from the community and around the country. Major unions and labor leaders, including the UAW, Teamsters, and Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson, who spoke to UE’s 2021 convention, tweeted support for the strike. Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, sent a solidarity photo, and UE locals around the country sent letters of support. Both of Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators, Bob Casey and John Fetterman, issued statements backing the UE members. Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis visited the picket line in the first week of the strike and sent a letter to Wabtec CEO Rafael Santana, indicating that both he and Governor Josh Shapiro supported the workers’ demands for a fair contract.


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