Railroad machinists reject tentative agreement as nationwide rail strike looms
The International Association of Machinists (IAM) District Lodge 19 reported this morning that railroad machinists have rejected a tentative agreement. The IAM is one of twelve unions that oversee railroad workers.
In a short statement, the IAM wrote, “The voting has concluded, and the results are in. The Tentative Agreement has been rejected and the strike authorization vote was approved.”
The IAM did not report any numbers, but workers say that opposition to the agreement was overwhelming.
The agreement rejected by workers was based on the recommendations of the Biden administration’s Presidential Emergency Board (PEB).
The recommendations of the PEB accepted all the demands of the railroad companies, including wage increases below inflation, increased health care costs and no changes to the hated attendance policies that leave train crews on call 24/7.
Provocatively, the IAM statement declared that “out of respect for the other Unions in the ratification process an extension has been agreed to until September 29, 2022.”
In fact, the unions are pursuing a divide-and-conquer strategy, attempting to push through agreements based on the PEB at a number of unions. Railroad workers have said, however, that they will not cross picket lines if workers in any of the unions begin strike action.
“The Machinists rank and file overwhelmingly reject extending the cooling off period,” a machinist in the IAM working in St. Louis, Missouri, told the WSWS Railroad Worker Newsletter.
“When we voted to strike we were told it would be 12:01 am September 16th. We have waited long enough for a decent contract, and we demand to strike on the 16th. The IAM unauthorized decision to leave the coalition left us vulnerable and caused division and anger amongst the members.”
Rail unions grovel to Congress, as Washington makes contingency plans ahead of Friday strike deadline
With less than three days to go before the deadline for a national railroad strike, the rail unions are working desperately to work out a deal with the seven Class I freight railroads. The unions, however, are faced with overwhelming opposition from workers, which is seriously disrupting their attempts to bureaucratically enforce a sellout deal.
Rail workers are fighting against a concessions contract proposal issued last month by a Biden-appointed Presidential Emergency Board that includes cuts to real wages and increases to health care costs. It also leaves intact the hated attendance policies that have driven tens of thousands out of the industry.
Despite the civil war atmosphere reigning inside Washington, both parties have indicated that they are prepared to come together to pass legislation to block a strike. Steny Hoyer, the number two Democrat in the House, told Bloomberg News that Congress would intervene. On Monday night, Republican Senators Richard Burr and Roger Wicker proposed legislation to impose the PEB right at Friday’s deadline.
In a groveling letter to congressional leaders for both parties Tuesday, the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, declared, “We humbly ask you to please let the two sides work this out.”
In other words, the unions are not demanding Congress stay out of a strike that will take place on Friday. Instead, they are begging Congress to give the unions the space and time needed to enforce a deal and avoid a strike. The letter adds, “Now is not the time for short-sightedness, as the fragility of the economy is very real.”
The companies, however, refuse to make even the slightest concessions on the brutal work regime on the railroads, where workers are constantly on call and are unable to schedule time with their families or even doctors’ appointments. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, which together with SMART-TD include the majority of railroaders as members, said that they would even soften their bargaining position by asking for unpaid sick leave, to no avail.
Railroad Workers Rank-and-File Committee calls emergency meeting for this evening
The Railroad Workers Rank-and-File Committee is sponsoring an online meeting for railroaders and their supporters, “Organize to prepare for a national strike!” this today at 7 p.m. Eastern time. To register, click here.
The Committee is holding this public meeting to serve as a democratic forum for railroaders to discuss their independent strategy and prepare in advance of Friday night. The committee urges workers to form independent, rank-and-file strike committees at all carriers and terminals to take control of the fight out of the hands of the union bureaucracy. Members of the committee will also speak and answer questions from the audience.
Workers from other industries are encouraged to attend and speak with railroaders about the situation in their own workplaces and discuss how to unify the whole working class behind the railroaders.
Millionaires’ Congress threatens to intervene against potential US railroad strike
Congress intends to intervene to prevent a national rail strike and unilaterally impose a concessions contract, Steny Hoyer, the second highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, told Bloomberg News on Monday.
“There is a role for Congress if in fact they fail to reach an agreement,” Hoyer told Bloomberg’s television news station. “We can pass legislation if needed.” He added, “A railroad strike at this point in time would be extraordinarily detrimental to our economy and the American people, and we want to avoid that.”
The US Chamber of Commerce also issued a statement demanding intervention by Congress in the event that a deal is not struck before Friday’s deadline, when the legally mandated “cooling-off” period expires at 12:01 a.m. This is the latest public statement by a major industry group demanding Congress intervene to impose a contract by fiat, ripping up the democratic rights of 100,000 railroaders who are nearly unanimously opposed to a deal and are pushing for strike action.
While not unexpected, Hoyer’s remarks are a significant escalation of the state’s efforts to impose a pro-company contract. They follow Biden’s appointment of a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), which proposed a settlement including wage increases below inflation, increased health care costs and no changes to the hated attendance policies that leave train crews on call 24/7.