Welcome to Railroad Workers United
North American railroad workers are divided into different unions based on their craft of work and on some short lines, workers are not unionized at all. In the US alone there are thirteen unions representing railroad workers with several more unions in Canada. What we need is solidarity, unity and democracy. READ MORE
Read All About It!
1 -- RWU Resolution and Article on Sleep Apnea
2 -- An Open Response to Union Official's "Call to Arms" Letter
3 -- International Solidarity Liaison Position Launched
4 -- Annual Report for 2016 Issued
5 -- "The Highball" Newsletter for Winter 2017
RWU publishes the Monthly Bulletin on an "as-needed" basis to fill in the gaps between quarterly issues of our newsletter The Highball.
National Bargaining Beaks Down, Grinds to a Halt
January 6, 2017
In December 2016 - after two fruitless years at the bargaining table - contract negotiations were broken off between all three union bargaining coalitions (including their component 13 different organizations) and the rail carriers (including a total of 32 in all). Because the carriers - represented by the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC) - have not presented a reasonable offer that is suitable to any of the three labor coalitions, the situation is at a stalemate. So here we are again, unable to reach agreement with our employers on basic questions of wages, benefits and work rules.
To better understand this quagmire, let's first look at who the players are.
The Carriers: Most of the big Class One railroads along with other regional, terminal and port rail carriers bargain as a group known as the National Carriers Conference Committee, an arm of the National Railway labor Conference (NRLC). Currently, the umbrella includes: UP, BNSF, KCS, CSX, NS; a host of CN properties in the U.S. including IC, GTW and WC; and a variety of smaller roads. See the complete listing of carriers in the NCCC Here.
-- The Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG) includes the BLET and SMART-TD along with BRS, NCFO, ATDA, IBB and SMART-TD-YDM (58% of rail labor).
-- The next largest group (no name) which includes the BRC, IAM, IBEW and TCU. (22% of rail labor).
-- The smallest group (again, no official name) which is the BMWED and the SMART (20% of rail labor).
If you look at these groupings, you may notice a few glaring absurdities and contradictions:
1 -- The two Teamster affiliates and "partners" under the IBT umbrella are in different coalitions.
2 -- The SMART affiliates - the Transportation Division and the traditional sheet metal workers - are not in the same coalition;
3 -- The shop crafts are completely scattered, with their unions found in each of the three coalitions.
So you do not have to look far to understand why no progress has been made in over two years at the table. Without an "industrial union" - one that represents ALL rail workers - it is very difficult to build the necessary unity, solidarity and strength we need to win. Without an actual railroad workers union, we could at least expect a single bargaining coalition, something RWU has pushed for since our Founding Convention in 2008.
As important as this is, the lack of progress in bargaining is not just because we are fractured and divided. The culture in our unions is undemocratic, extremely hierarchical and deeply conservative. How many of you rails have been kept informed of the progress of bargaining? How many of you have been asked to list a finger to help, to get involved, to support the bargaining team? How many of you know who is even on your bargaining team? Were they elected or appointed? Quite likely, many of you were not even aware that your contract was at the present time under negotiation, let alone that it was about to be declared at impasse.
In the coming weeks and months - as the crisis deepens - Railroad Workers United will do our best to fill this void as best we can. But it is up to you - each and every rank & filer - to demand answers, to insist on the right to know, to get involved in the bargaining process, the get behind your bargaining team, and to be ready to take action in our collective defense. It's your union and it's your future!
1 - An example of union officials actually connecting with the rank & file, taking questions and providing information and explanations can be seen here in a video:
2 - View and/or print an RWU flyer that explains the concept of Coordinated Bargaining:
3 - Read a special issue of RWU's newsletter The Highball on Coordinated Bargaining
4 - View the RWU Coordinated Bargaining Campaign Page
All railroad workers are urged to contact members of the House of Representatives about co-sponsoring The Safe Freight Act of 2017 (H.R. 233), a bill that would mandate two-person train crews on freight trains - a certified locomotive engineer and a certified conductor. Both unions of the operating crafts - the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Rail Air and Transportation Workers (SMART TD) - are equally supportive of the bill and the concept of a minimum two-person train crew. Read more here.
Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121
We keep on telling the FRA ... NO SINGLE EMPLOYEE TRAIN CREWS!
Protect the Safety of Railroad Workers and the Community:
No Single Employee Train Crews!
On March 15th, 2016 the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced a Proposed Rule on Train Crew Staffing for trains in the United States. While the Proposed Rule has some merit, ultimately it provides a road map by which any rail carrier can apply fort he right to ruin trains with a signle crew member on board. After careful consideration, Railroad Workers United came to the only conclusion possible: the Proposed Rule on Train Crew Staffing as written would allow any rail carrier - large or small, passenger or freight, Class One or tourist railway - to obtain the FRA's blessing to run any type of train with a single employee. Therefore, RWU was the first to sound the alarm and proclaim complete and total opposition to the Rule.
As a result, we worked diligently throughout Spring and Summer 2016 to bring the voice of the rank & file railroader and concerned citizens to the table. Nearly 1600 comments were submitted during the initial comment period, the overwhelming majority in opposition to the Proposed Rule. RWU testified publicly at the oral hearing in Washington D.C. in July. To their credit, the BLET and SMART have also come out in opposition to the Proposed Rule.
We await the FRA's Final Rule on the question and will circulate it along with our comments once it is released. In the meantime, click on any of the links below to learn more about the Proposed Rule and RWU efforts to stop single employee train crew operations.
RWU has an ongoing long term Campaign of opposition to single employee crews dating back to 2008 (and beyond). To learn more about it and how you can be involved, see the link below:
We continue to agree with the joint statement from nearly 7 years ago that the BLET and UTU unions made in a joint Petition filed in June 2009 with the FRA on the question which reads: "No conditions exist where one-person operations are safe." And since the Proposed Rule is predicated on the "safe" operation of trains with a single crew member, we urge the FRA to promulgate a rule that outlaws the practice.
Solidarity Action with Korean Railway Workers
2/6/17: Lee Jin-young is a railway worker and active member of the Korean Railway Workers Union (KRWU). While dismissed, he worked at the Union head quarters, and he is currently a longtime union delegate representing his department. On January 5th, 2017 a South Korean district court decided to detain Brother Lee Jin-young, who coordinates Labor Books, a book-sharing web site, in violation of the notoriously draconian National Security Law. This abrupt decision is extremely shocking, considering the historic candlelight protests against the political scandal of the Park Geynhye government and the subsequent crisis together with her impeachment. Read more ...
RWU hosts a Closed Group Facebook Page. It is a place for railroaders (except management) to connect and share information. It is open to all railroaders whether they are represented or non-represented, rank & file contractor workers, RWU members and non-RWU members alike. We realize any internet "forum" available for discussions can sometimes get antagonistic, but we require all to remain respectful and tolerant. Please give us your union or railroad affiliation when you request access to the Page.
RWU publishes The Highball - our quarterly newsletter - and makes it available in hard copy (directly mailed to our members) as well as online. The newsletter reports on issues of concern to the rank & file railroad worker, and offers analysis, opinion and commentary on current affairs in the industry. Check out the latest issue of The Highball each time it is published right here on the website. Or you can sign up for RWU News Alerts and get it emailed to you each issue. OR better yet, Join RWU and have a hard copy mailed to you each issue!
You can view and make copies of the Current Issue of The Highball.
Click HERE to send us an email if you would like to help distribute The Highball in your work terminal and/or across your division.
If you wish to view back issues of the newsletter, click HERE.
You can get the facts about the 2013 tragedy at Lac-Megantic, Quebec and the resulting scapegoating of locomotive engineer Tom Harding and train director Richard Labrie -- both members of United Steelworkers Union Local 1976 -- on the RWU Railroad Workers Defense Page. In addition, check out the website dedicated to the defense of these union brothers HERE.
Posted on December 08, 2016
Fred Zuckerman and Teamsters United campaigned on a platform of fighting job elimination, outsourcing, and fighting for safety for rail workers and the public. Rail Teamsters responded.
The 40,000 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) voted by 59.1% for Fred Zuckerman over Hoffa.
The 33,000 members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWE) voted by 60.1% for Fred Zuckerman.
The Teamsters on almost every rail carrier voted for Teamsters United.
(Many of the BBS "experts" (E. Scott Geller) just can't admit they were wrong. But some are beginning to realize that a safety program that will not address the underlying causes/hazards or the culpability of corporate management's attitude is doomed to fail. Note: This article is from EHS Today. Emphasis is strictly ours).
Oct 1, 2007
When it was introduced, behavior-based safety (BBS) was seen as a magic panacea for everything that ailed safety programs. “It was the Swiss Army Knife of safety programs. It could take care of everything,” says Ron Bowles, director of operations for Portland, Ore.-based Strategic Safety Associates. “Now people realize that it is just one tool and more are needed.”
Decades after the initial launch of BBS programs, the process has lost favor with many safety managers, who claim the cost – such programs can be expensive – and the long-term results are not what they expected.
Some experts argue that expectations for BBS were unrealistic from the start, while others believe the process has been corrupted at some companies, transformed into an auditing program that assumes a “blame the employee” attitude about safety failures. CLICK HERE to read more.
Railroad Workers United now has a 501c(3) Foundation dedicated to educating and defending railroad workers interests across North America and providing them with the tools they need to win.
Railroad Workers Education & Legal Defense Foundation (RWELDF) is set up to receive tax-deductible donations in order to provide grassroots education and leadership development programs that help railroad workers understand the issues they face, to build unity and solidarity among railroaders, and ensure democracy and transparency in our unions.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE
CLICK HERE TO MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION
TO MAKE A RECURRING MONTHLY DONATION, SELECT FROM THE DROP-DOWN MENU BELOW AND CLICK ON 'SUBSCRIBE'
NOTE: Railroad Workers Education & Legal Defense Foundation does not solicit nor accept funding from any employer-related or anti-labor sources.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (PAI) - Rail workers scored a big safety win in California on August 21 as state lawmakers gave final approval to a bill mandating two-person crews on all freight trains.
The measure, pushed by the Teamsters and their California affiliates, the Rail Division of SMART - the former United Transportation Union - and the state labor federation, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, D-Calif., who is expected to sign it.
Rail unions nationwide have been pushing for the two-person crews while the rail carriers have been pushing for just one, an engineer. Several months ago, the head of one carrier, the Burlington Northern, advocated crewless freights.
(Quote from article: "The proposed California statute requires trains and light engines carrying freight within the nation's largest state - home to one of every eight Americans - to be operated with "an adequate crew size," reported Railroad Workers United, a coalition of rank-and-file rail workers from SMART, the Teamsters and other unions.")
The NTSB reported their findings from the tragic wreck of Amtrak #188 outside of Philadelphia in May 2015. While there is only speculative evidence at best, the agency blamed "operator distraction" for the incident.
In 2015, RWU sponsored a series of conferences entitled Railroad Safety: Workers, Community & the Environment in Richmond, CA, Olympia, WA and Chicago, IL entitled: "Rail Safety: Workers, Community & the Environment" in order to educate the public about rail safety and to build and allinace with citizens and environmental groups to defend our jobs and help to build a safer workplace and a safer railroad.
Here is Brother John Wright's (RWU Co-chair) video report on the conference in Richmond CA.
Railroad Workers United is proud to be at the forefront of the emerging labor-community alliance to defend our mutual interests. for example, railroad workers and the communities we operate through are both concerned about railroad safety. And while we may come atthe question from differing angles, our interests in the safety question - and other issues - are surely close enough that they pose a historic possibility, a window of opportunity for a new alliance that would strengthen both labor and community vs. the rail carriers. Click on link above for more information.
By Ron Kaminkow
General Secretary, Railroad Workers United
At first glance, the casual observer from outside of the rail industry is prone to say that single employee train operation sounds dangerous. “What if the engineer has a heart attack?” is an often heard question. And while this question has merit, there are many other and far more complex and unanswered questions about just how single employee train operations could be accomplished safely and efficiently for the train crew, the railroad and the general public. How will the train make a back-up move? What happens when the train hits a vehicle or pedestrian? How will the train crew member deal with “bad-order” equipment in his/her train, or make pick-ups and set-outs en route? What about job briefings and calling signals, copying mandatory directives and reminders of slow orders? These are just some questions that we take up in this article. Read More...
RWU conducted our 5th Convention in conjunction with the Labor Notes Conference in Chicago IL, on March 31st - April 1st, 2016.
You can read all about it in The Highball by clicking HERE.
We most likely will conduct our 6th Biennial Convention in the Spring of 2018 in Chicago, IL. We hope to see you there!
RWU was founded in the spring of 2008 in Dearborn, MI. when rail activists came together from various crafts, unions and rail carriers to build a solidarity organization of all railroad workers in North America. Labor Beat - a Chicago based non-profit - was there to film the proceedings and interview the founding members. Check out the 25 minute video -- now up on U-tube -- of the RWU Founding Convention.
Click on the link above to fill out this important form. It is a valuable tool in our box that can save many lives down the road....
The fractured nature of rail labor has led RWU to initiate a program to honor each and every railroad worker killed on the job, regardless of what craft and what union the worker was a member of. When a brother or sister is killed in the line of duty, it is the concern of all of us, whatever position we currently hold on the property and whatever union they happen to be paying dues to.
Each year since 2009 we have conducted Railroad Workers Memorial Day to honor and remember rails killed in the line of duty.
The Campaign was officially unleashed on Labor Day 2012. The rail carriers have been slowly but surely making inroads and it is only a matter of time before they make an all-out press for universal single employee crews. RWU says HELL NO! And we encourage all of our members and supporters, all railroad workers to get involved in the campaign. READ MORE...
Popular Science magazine offers one of the best in-depth descriptions of the issues surrounding Positive Train Control. CLICK HERE to read.
"The advent of new technology together with a decline in union power, coupled with the rail carriers’ arrogant disregard for worker and public safety has seen the standard five-person train crew drop first to three, and then to two crew members. Now the big railroad companies have their sights set on implementation of the universal single employee train crew. The only thing that can stop them is YOU! Please join with Railroad Workers United in our effort to stop the implementation of single employee train crews!"
The last decade or so has witnessed a proliferation of “Blame-the-Worker” safety programs on Class 1 railroads in the U.S. These programs have been fairly commonplace in other industries and many other labor unions have been struggling with them for years. In effect, these so-called "behavior based safety programs" are little more than a thinly veiled attempt by the employer to shift the blame for accidents, injuries, and fatalities away from management responsibility and lay it at the doorstep of worker behavior. They are a fraud and a farce and are - in fact - dangerous. Click HERE to Read More.
Rail freight carrier and passenger train companies have been finding ways to get their workers to do more for less for the past few decades. Considering how much the economy of the U.S. depends upon the massive amount of freight moved by trains, one would think the unions representing those workers to be very powerful. However, there are a dozen or so different unions, divided by craft, representing different sectors of the workforce on the various rail properties from coast to coast. To counter the divisive race to the bottom caused by cross-union fratricide in the industry, rank-and-file rail workers from every craft and union have joined together to form RAILROAD WORKERS UNITED. [To watch the 20 minute video, click on the icon above].
Mark Burrows -- former RWU Co-Chair now retired -- speaks from the floor of the UTU convention in 2011. His short speech is very inspiring, and is well worth having a look at.
For a number of years prior to his retirement in early 2016, Mark wrote a regular column in The HIghball - the RWU Newsletter. Those articles are archived on the website and can be accessed in their entirety HERE.
At the 5th Biennial Convention in Chicago, RWU adopted a series of resolutions. While these are simply public statements of our position of various issues, they are designed to anchor the organization and give it guidance and direction in the coming years. Without action of course, these resolutions are hollow words. So let’s make them happen!
This Resolution opposes the attempted takeover of the Norfolk southern by Canadian Pacific. For many reasons, including the fact that this consolidation would: initiate a "final" round of mega mergers; the fact that these maga mergers result in a reduced and demoralized workforce; result in even more concentrated power in the hands for even fewer corporations; result in abandonments and consolidations of facilities. RWU goes on record in opposition to the takeover, calls on the rank and file and the craft unions to do the same.
This Resolution commits RWU to support a decent minimum wage for million of workers who are living in poverty. Statistics show that the current minimum wage has far less purchasing power than that of decades ago. If the minimum wage were raised to $15 and hour, tens of millions of workers would benefit directly, and ALL workers - including railroad workers - would have more power at the bargaining table. Numerous unions have publicly declared their support for such an increase. If and when we win it, Organized Labor will be seen as the friend of low wage working people, encouraging union membership and workplace organizing.
As the economy switches from fossil fuels to renewals, from environmentally harmful processes and procedures to environmentally sensitive ones, workers - especially blue collar workers in basic industry - stand to bear the brunt of this change. RWU believes that this unjust situation must be rectified. This Resolution calls for a "Just Transition" whereby workers displaced would be awarded with re-training, relocation, education, etc. to ensure that they are able to maintain employment and at a level commensurate from the jobs they are displaced from as a result of the changing economy.
Because the U.S. political system has offered us up two parties - both of which has deep ties to corporations and the wealthy, and because they are unreliable allies in the struggle for workers' rights, offering all-too-often a "lesser-of-two-evils" option for American workers, RWU says enough is enough. This Resolution calls for working people and their organizations to join with community groups, environmental organizations, consumer advocates and others to break with this system and explore other avenues including but not limited to the possibilities of founding a new political party in order to achieve our goals.
Since our Founding Convention in 2008, RWU has insisted upon its autonomy and independence. The organization has been free of domination by any specific trade union or political party. However, RWU does form alliances and work with other organizations and groups and will continue to do so. This does not mean that RWU will lose its autonomy and independence. This Resolution commits RWU to the following:
1 -- to not affiliate with any political party, nor 2 -- to endorse political candidates; 3 -- to remain independent of any and all unions; and 4 -- to cooperate and/or form coalition with various groupings but always to defend and protect our autonomy while working in such fashion.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a NAFTA style trade agreement that would facilitate "free" trade among a dozen or so nations. In doing so, huge corporations would reap benefits while working people would suffer as jobs are off-shored and local economies are devastated. This Resolution states RWU's firm opposition to such trade deals, calls on railroad workers to oppose the proposed agreement, and pledges RWU to take part in rallies, demonstrations, etc. in opposition to the TPP.
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) ostensibly protects worker whistleblowers against harassment, retaliation and discrimination from their employer after reporting workplace hazards or injuries, safety violations, etc. However, the law and its enforcement are sorely lacking. This Resolution takes note of the shortcomings and flaws in the current system and makes a series of recommendations so that the law can truly protect and defend railroad workers from the rail carriers.
Railroad Workers and railroad passengers each have their own specific interests. However, there exists a great degree of overlap on questions of safety, reliability, adequate staffing, multiple train start times, etc. This Resolution points out this large area of common ground, and pledges RWU to work with various organizations to the ends of bringing about a "Grand Alliance" to support a network of safe, fast, frequent passenger trains and commuter services across North America
RWU was founded upon the idea of building solidarity, unity and democracy among railroad workers of North America, by building a rank and file organization dedicated to activism. Nevertheless, RWU recognizes that in order to achieve this lofty goal, we must enter alliances and coalitions with organizations outside of the rail industry, as no organization or social movement exists in a vacuum. We can only expect the help and assistance of others if and when we lend them a hand as well. This Resolution recognizes this basic truism and commits RWU to stand in solidarity with other social movements fighting back against injustice as we see fit.