You are here

class struggle

Mick Lynch on the Rail Strikes and Climate Crisis

NLRB demand for UMWA to pay Warrior Met Coal strike costs “outrageous,” threatens American workers’ right to strike

By staff - United Mine Workers Of America, August 3, 2022

The United Mine Workers of America today made it clear that it will vigorously challenge an outrageous assessment of damages made by the National Labor Relations Board Region 10 regarding the UMWA’s 16-month strike against Warrior Met Coal in Alabama.

“This is a slap in the face not just to the workers who are fighting for better jobs at Warrior Met Coal, but to every worker who stands up to their boss anywhere in America,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “There are charges for security, cameras, capital expenditures, buses for transporting scabs across picket lines, and the cost of lost production.

“What is the purpose of a strike if not to impact the operations of the employer, including production,” Roberts asked. “Is it now the policy of the federal government that unions be required to pay a company’s losses as a consequence of their members exercising their rights as working people? This is outrageous and effectively negates workers’ right to strike. It cannot stand.”

The union entered into a settlement agreement in June with NLRB Region 10 regarding charges the company had made about picket line activity in order to save striking members and families from days of hostile questioning by company lawyers. On July 22, the NLRB sent the union a detailed list of damages totaling $13.3 million dollars, more than 33 times the estimated amount NLRB lawyers had initially indicated would be assessed.

Warrior Met has reported millions of dollars in costs it has incurred over the course of the strike. “It appears that Warrior Met wants us to reimburse it for those costs, including costs it incurred before the strike even began,” Roberts said. “What’s extremely troubling here is that the NLRB appears to have taken up the company’s cause without a second thought.

“I want to be clear: Warrior Met Coal instigated this strike and has brutally extended it through its sustained unwillingness to reach a fair and reasonable agreement at the bargaining table,” Roberts said. “We have no intention of paying its costs for doing so. The right to strike in America must be preserved. We will fight this at every level, in every court. We will spend every penny of our resources rather than give in to something like this from the NLRB, Warrior Met or any other entity.”

A Railroad Worker Strike Could Shake the Economy’s Foundations

By Paul Prescod - Jacobin, August 2, 2022

Once a coveted job, conditions for railroad workers have badly deteriorated. But railroad workers are central to our economy — so central that a current impasse between railroad companies and associated unions has prompted Joe Biden to intervene.

Six months ago, the spouses of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Corporation (BNSF) employees detailed the toll the job was taking on their families. A letter containing twenty-five of their stories portrays a climate where workers find it impossible to maintain a personal life.

Nichole Bischoff, who has taken the lead in organizing railroad worker spouses, said to a local news outlet, “So many parents wanna be at every trick-or-treating event, every school function, baseball game and they just can’t, and our kids learn to live with it.”

“My husband can’t even attend any of his appointments,” one anonymous spouse complained. “He has already gotten dropped from a couple [health care] providers for poor compliance.”

Now conditions for railroad workers are poised to take center stage nationally. On Friday, July 15, President Joe Biden intervened in a labor dispute that could have a dramatic impact on the nation’s economy. Contract negotiations between the major freight railroad companies and their associated unions, representing 115,000 railway workers, have reached an impasse. Utilizing the procedures of the Railway Labor Act, the president stepped in to form a presidential emergency board that will hold hearings and issue recommendations during a thirty-day “cooling-off” period.

But there are no guarantees that this mediation will produce a settlement, as railworkers have been pushed to the brink by decades of brutal corporate cost-cutting measures.

Russian socialist dissident: ‘Putin’s regime will collapse — and probably sooner rather than later’

By Federico Fuentes and Boris Kagarlitsky - Green Left, August 1, 2022

Boris Kagarlitsky is a Moscow-based sociologist and editor of the socialist website Rabkor (Worker Correspondent), whose writings regularly appear in English on Russian Dissent.

In this interview with Green Left’s Federico Fuentes, Kagarlitsky discusses the domestic factors behind Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and the role of the left in anti-war organising.

Discussions in the West regarding Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine largely focus on NATO expansionism, the Kremlin’s imperialist ambitions or Putin’s mental health. But you argue these were not the key driving force behind the invasion. Why?

When a huge event occurs, such as the war on Ukraine, there are generally various factors at play. But you have to put these factors into the context of real political and social processes.

In that sense, all these factors, along with the long-term conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and the conflict within Ukraine and between Ukrainian elites, were all present. But, these factors do not explain much; they're very superficial.

The real question is: why did this war erupt now, despite these factors existing for many years.

London IWW Statement of Solidarity with UK Rail Workers

By branch - London IWW, August 1, 2022

The London Branch of the IWW stands with the rail workers in their ongoing dispute. They are fighting not just for themselves, but for us all: as well as their livelihoods, the safety standards of the British rail network are under threat. The government-backed rail operators are attempting to reduce staffing levels on platforms, trains, and tracks in order to drive down wages, which they see simply as an overhead cost. Further, they intend to rehire many workers on zero-hours agency contracts in order to circumnavigate labour rights such as paid leave for holiday, sickness, and parenthood as well as allowing them to dismiss workers without notice or redundancy pay.

The transport industry is one of the few remaining industries in Britain with high union membership. This attempt to break it up by dividing the workforce is a direct attempt to weaken the unions, and the labour movement as a whole.

On top of it all, comes a slap in the face: during this period of exaggerated cost of living, and while the shareholders take home millions in profit, they are offering the workers that they aren’t trying to sack a real-terms pay cut.

However, the workers are standing strong: in the face of an endless torrent of vitriol from the British government and press, they are taking every opportunity to expose the inequalities and injustice that they face. Members of our branch have been proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with these workers on the picket lines, and we will continue to offer our support until the dispute is won. As long as we continue to stand together, we can tip the balance in the favour of workers around the world.

Mutual aid is the currency of solidarity; direct support for the striking worker is crucial to their success. As such, the IWW London branch are setting a budget to allow members to donate food and drinks to workers on the picket lines, and we encourage any members or supporters with the means to make a donation to the strike funds.

The momentum of the union movement is growing once again in Britain after half a century of targeted assault. Public support is on the rise, and workers in unions across the country are balloting to take action and stand up for their rights and their dignity. The doubling-down on anti-union rhetoric by the government and press is evidence that they are aware of the power that a unionised workforce wields, and that they are threatened by it.

The IWW welcomes any and all workers both in and out of employment and of any nation, race, gender, or creed. Together we stand for a fairer world.

Solidarity forever.

What If Rail Workers Struck? A Talk with RWU

U.S. Railroad Workers Could Strike & Shut Down The Economy

Dropping like flies: How will UPS workers survive another summer without a/c?

By Joe Allen - Tempest, July 28, 2022

When Esteban Chavez collapsed after making his last package delivery for the day in Pasadena, California on June 25, it was another twenty minutes before someone discovered him and called for emergency help. He died soon afterward. Esteban was 24 years old and had been working at United Parcel Service (UPS) for four years. It was his second day back to work after recovering from a shoulder injury.

Esteban went to work that day not expecting to die on the job. Temperatures, however, soared into the upper nineties in Pasadena, and UPS package delivery cars do not have air conditioning. “It hurts, it’s a pain that’s never gonna go away. And that’s something I wish on nobody, having the experience of losing your child,” his father Esteban, Sr. told the local ABC news affiliate. While the Los Angeles Medical Examiner-Coroner’s office hasn’t released an official cause of death, Esteban’s family believes with good reason that it is directly related to high temperatures and dehydration. “I’m thinking it’s heatstroke, but that’s just me,” Esteban’s aunt, Gloria Chavez, told ABC. Esteban’s father hopes that his son’s death “could bring awareness to his line of work, to the other drivers out there, just making sure you’re staying hydrated.”

Less than two weeks later in Scottsdale, Arizona the security camera of a homeowner captured a UPS driver collapsing on his front porch in 113-degree heat. Business Insider reported:

The homeowner, Brian Enriquez, captured the incident on video via his Ring doorbell on Thursday. He told local news that by the time he saw the video of the delivery man it was too late to provide any help, but he checked in with the company and reported the incident to local police for a welfare check.

The video shows the UPS driver struggling to walk to the customer’s front door while delivering an envelope. The driver then collapses in front of the door after he sets down the delivery, eventually falling onto his back. After a few moments, the delivery man stands up, rings the doorbell, and slowly walks back to his vehicle.

There has been a longstanding awareness about the dangers of heat in the workplace whether it be in vast agricultural fields, underfunded public schools, construction and road work, warehouses and factories, and for package delivery drivers. Climate change has accelerated the dangers for these workers.

When a local ABC News affiliate was able to track down the driver who collapsed on the Scottsdale porch—he was interviewed anonymously—and he told reporters:

(The) fact of the matter is that no amount of training can prepare your body for 160 degrees, 10 to 12 hours a day, six days a week,” says one UPS driver who spoke with ABC15 anonymously, saying the way they’re treated is inhumane.

It’s not just him. The driver described apocalyptic conditions, “Every week drivers are dropping like flies due to heat conditions and UPS is killing drivers because of this.”

His problems don’t stop at the end of the long workday:

There’s been several times where I’ve woken up in the middle of the night, cramping up, my legs cramping, my hand is cramping. I’m telling my wife I can’t sleep because I’m having these issues and I end up having to call out the next day because it’s clearly not safe for me to come back to work. And UPS will reprimand me.

UPS drivers and Teamsters’ spouses took to social media to highlight the lack of air conditioning, which most people found shocking. UPS driver Aiden Mann’s Tik-Tok post has garnered over five million views, while Theresa Klenk’s change.org petition demanding air conditioning for all UPS drivers has been signed by over 1.3 million people. Klenk and her UPS driver husband were featured in an NBC News expose of UPS three years ago about the risk for heat-related illness and death on the job.

A fairer energy system for families and the climate

By staff - Trades Union Congress, July 25, 2022

Executive summary

Publicly-owned energy retail companies can deliver fairer bills for households, accelerate the rollout of household retrofits and reduce energy use.

Soaring energy bills are causing untold suffering for low-income households and workers across the UK. The “typical” bill was increased by 54% with Ofgem’s April increase in the energy price cap.[1] Many households have already seen bills go up by over a thousand pounds. Ofgem is expected to increase the electricity and gas price cap again in August by a further 51%, so that average bills pass £3,200.[2]

But allocating the burden of the gas price crisis to domestic households at this scale is not inevitable. Other European countries have demonstrated that it is possible to insulate many or all households from the fallout of the invasion of Ukraine, Putin’s gas politics and global volatility in terms of energy bills. Our analysis shows that this is because governments in those countries have more levers to intervene in energy pricing – and are more prepared to use the levers that they have. Part of this comes down to questions of who owns and controls our energy system, and whom it serves.

There is widespread recognition that the UK’s energy system is broken.

U.S. Railroad Workers Inch Closer to a Possible National Strike

By Jeff Schuhrke - In These Times, July 25, 2022

After Biden appointed an emergency board to help resolve the labor dispute, rail workers warn: “We have the ability to stop the trains from moving.”

After waiting over two years to secure a new union contract, and still reeling from the impacts of Wall Street-ordered cost-cutting measures, 115,000 beleaguered workers who operate the nation’s freight railroads are inching closer towards a possible strike, which could come as soon as September. 

In an effort to drive down operating expenses and reward their wealthy shareholders, in recent years railroad companies have implemented ​“precision scheduled railroading,” or PSR — a version of just-in-time, lean production that centers on reducing the workforce and closing facilities. 

“For years, they cut and cut and cut. It didn’t matter which department or terminal, it was indiscriminate,” said Michael Paul Lindsey, an Idaho-based locomotive engineer with Union Pacific.

Over the past six years, the major Class I railroads like BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern have slashed their collective workforce by 29 percent (around 45,000 workers), leaving the industry woefully understaffed and putting extra strain on workers already accustomed to long, irregular hours. 

Lindsey said the severe staffing shortages have resulted in ​“constant chaos and crisis,” with workers being called at all hours, day and night, expected to take on assignments they were not initially scheduled for. 

Cost-cutting has also meant freight trains are running with more cars and more cargo than existing infrastructure is equipped to handle, or else misrouting rail cars just to get them moving. This cost-cutting, along with a labor shortage, have been major contributors to the supply-chain crisis. 

Meanwhile, the railroad companies remain highly profitable, with owners raking in $183 billion in stock buybacks and dividends since 2010.

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.