On the Picket Line

Railroad Workers United rejects tentative agreement


The Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) released recommendations Aug. 16 on contract negotiations between Class One rail carriers (BNSF, CSX, Union Pacific and the other freight train corporations) and union railway workers.

Rail workers had hoped the PEB would support their legitimate concerns about safety and working conditions. These concerns include forced 24/7 on-call schedules, inadequate train crews and poor compensation for these essential workers, who have risked their own and their families’ health to keep the trains moving during the pandemic. 

The freight railroad union members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike but were bound by the 1926 Railway Labor Act to wait for PEB intervention in the labor dispute. There was unprecedented unity among the 12 rail labor unions in the demands made of the carriers. 

However, the leadership of four of the unions, the United Rail Unions coalition, seem ready to accept the PEB agreement. This coalition includes the Machinists (IAM), the Transportation Communications Union (TCU), TCU’s division of Railway car-workers and the Electrical Workers (IBEW).

The elected leadership’s disloyalty to the rank-and-file members prompted Railroad Workers United (RWU) to issue a statement that included a 12-point proposal on why members should vote “No.” RWU is an interunion, cross-craft solidarity caucus of freight railroad workers from all crafts, all carriers and all unions across North America. (tinyurl.com/yz58ee64

The PEB failed to address the working conditions and safety issues that polled rail workers said were their top concerns. Even the offer of a seemingly generous wage increase shrinks when rising inflation is factored in and when compared to the massive profits the rail carriers have reported since the pandemic. 

Given the supply chain crisis, the PEB ruling is proof that, when push comes to shove, the federal government will always side with capitalist corporations against workers. Hopefully, the RWU can convince the rail workers to continue the struggle until victory is won.

Tech workers: Labor is not for sale to apartheid Israel

Over 1,000 Google and Amazon workers have petitioned Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud executives to stop doing business with the apartheid Israeli government. In particular, workers denounce Google’s $1.2 billion contract with the Israeli military. Dubbed Project Nimbus, it will provide cloud service for increased surveillance and oppression of the Palestinians in their homeland. 

The tech workers are saying they do not want their labor for these tech giants to promote further attacks on Palestinians, like the recent Israeli raids on six Palestinian human rights groups. Google worker Ariel Koran resigned recently after being targeted by Google because of her organizing efforts against the military contract. Now a campaign called “No Tech for Apartheid” has been launched, and a rally by Google and Amazon workers will take place Sept. 8. Sign the petition in support: notechforapartheid.com.

Health care workers won’t back down

Health care workers continue to push demands for safe staffing and retention strategies. Multiple picket lines and one-day strikes are happening at health facilities all over the U.S. 

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 829 at Sequoia Hospital in California have been on the picket line since mid-July. And 2,000 members of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) began their strike in mid-August at four Kaiser Permanente facilities in California, and now there are picket lines in Hawaii. 

In August 96% of the members of the Michigan Nurses Association-University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council gave the thumbs up for a strike authorization, boosting the leverage of their bargaining team. 

The nurses at Armstrong County Medical Hospital in Western Pennsylvania know the strength of labor power. As affiliate members of Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP), the ACMH nurses held a five-day strike in March, before heading back to the bedside and the bargaining table. 

Five months later they were successful in winning a new contract that addressed staffing and retention of RNs, LPNs and technicians. “Signing the contract was a major victory for the union, its members and the community,” said Sandra Harrison, treasurer of ACMH Nurses United. “Our goal was to retain staff and recruit new nurses. Patient care was always our top priority. We are happy to announce a 15% to 23% wage increase to the members.” 

PASNAP President Maureen May added, “This contract, with its emphasis on measures to improve retention, acknowledges the contributions of frontline caregivers and by prioritizing their well-being, also prioritizes patient care. We are thrilled.” (cranberryeagle.com, Aug. 26)

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