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Welcome to Railroad Workers United

A Place for All North American Rail Workers

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 democracyREAD MORE

Rail Labor Unity Campaign Takes Off!

Since our Founding Convention, RWU has supported Coordinated Bargaining between all the rail unions, and has firmly stood up ion favor of a single bargaining coalition of all rail labor. See Founding Convention Resolution HERE.

In recent months, more and more rank and file railroaders have come to see the wisdom of this position and are pressuring their leadership to move in this direction. During the latest bargaining  round, the All Rail Crafts Coalition (ARCC) took hold at a number of major terminals across the United States, and sustainable chapters are taking root.

All railroad workers are urged to bring the issue to your local union for debate and discussion. Please consider introducing a Resolution of Support for Rail Union Unity. And if your local adopts such a Resolution, forward it to both RWU and your National leadership.

Sample Local Union Resolution Here

Meantime, national union officials are also starting to voice support for the concent. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) adopted a Resolution in May at the national Convention. Other unions are expected to soon follow suit.

Read the Trackworkers' Resolution Here

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Read the Machinists Resolution Here

District Lodge #19 of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) - the District which represents U.S. railroad machinist members - adopted the Resolution at Convention in September. The Resolution was put forward by Lodge #27 in Kansas City, MO.

RWU Embarks Upon Annual Fall Fundraising Drive

Please select the method that works best for you!

Dear RWU Members & Supporters:

Recognizing that different members and supporters like to donate in different ways, RWU is engaging in an innovative fundraiser this Fall season in order to build up our finances to expand the organization and leave it better prepared to fight the battles ahead. We offer you a variety of ways that you can play a role in this effort.

Some of you prefer to make a one-time donation to RWU, while others who itemize on their taxes prefer to make a tax-deductible donation to our 501c3 sister organization, the Railroad Workers Education & Legal Defense Foundation (RWF). Others prefer to donate on a recurring basis and have opted to become“Sustainers”and make smaller regular donations on a monthly basis or with each pay check. Still others forego the donation altogether and prefer to join RWU as a “Eugene V. Debs Club Member”, a Lifetime Membership for $1000.00.

Whatever way works for you, works for us. Please consider any or all of the above ways that you can financially support the important work of Railroad Workers United. We are all full-time railroaders just like you. All funds go directly to support RWU’s many efforts including: building coordinated bargaining and cooperation between rail unions;opposing single employee train operations; supporting rail worker whistleblowers; instituting real safety programs that focus on fixing the hazards, not blaming workers; promoting educational and legal efforts to defend railroaders; and last but not least, to building a rank & file network of rail activist s in the spirit of solidarity, unity and democracy. Please support RWU in the way that works for you. Thanks!!

Please choose from the options below ...

Donate to Railroad Workers United (RWU)

Donate to Railroad Workers Education and Legal Defense Foundation (RWF)

Become an RWU Sustainer (check the box that says "make this a monthly donation")

Become an RWF Sustainer - tax-deductable, scroll down (check the box that says "make this a monthly donation")

Join RWU as a Lifetime Member

Renew Your Membership in RWU as a Lifetime Member


Canadian Rail Workers Acquitted in the Lac-Mégantic Trial

After a four month long trial, finally the scapegoated rail workers are free!

   Engineer Tom Harding emerges from the Courthouse a free man, 4 and 1/2 years after the train wreck.

Engineer Tom Harding emerges from the Courthouse a free man, 4 and 1/2 years after the train wreck.

Ever wonder just how much money your top union officials make? Well, RWU has put together a comprehensive listing of all rail union officer salaries and expenses for the last fiscal year from all of the rail unions in the United States. The information comes courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor and is public information, available to anyone by simply checking the DoL website. But for convenience sake, we thought we would compile the complete listing and put it all in one nice, neat package for railroad workers to take a look at. Too much? Too little? Just about right?  You be the judge.

Become an RWU Sustainer Today!

With all the issues confronting by rank & file railroaders this past year, Railroad Workers United has dramatically increased our level of activity. We are literally taking our organization “to the next level”, developing desperately needed staff personnel to assist in building up the organization as we approach our tenth anniversary Convention in April 2018. To succeed in our efforts, RWU must get serious about fundraising. Since our founding in 2008, we have managed to pay the bills with the annual dues of our loyal members, sales from our online Store, and the generosity of a handful of member donors.

But organizational necessities – including copying, printing, postage, web hosting, conferences, picket signs, banners, buttons, flyers, and support staff – do not come free. We have the energy, we have the vision and the idealism, and we have bodies. But to expand and grow beyond our limited capacity we are seeking new and diverse sources of funding.

You can help! Please consider becoming an RWU SUSTAINER. All it takes is for you to donate a small amount each week, each pay period or each month to RWU. Or you can make your contribution tax deductible by making it to our 501c3 tax-exempt sister entity - Railroad Workers Education & Legal Defense Foundation (RWF).

Your decision to become a RWU SUSTAINER will assist us to grow and expand our efforts well beyond their current level. Your small but recurring donation will help propel Railroad Workers United to the forefront of the railroad workers' rank & file movement.

RWU Annual Report for 2017

In January, Railroad Workers United issued our Annual Report for 2017, a summary highlighting the achievements and progress of the organization throughout the year. All RWU members in good standing received the Report in the mail in late January. Everyone else is welcome and encouraged to read it here.

Railroad Workers United Produces 2018 Rail Labor History Calendar

Railroad workers, our friends and allies, rail and history buffs, together with members of the general public can now order their copy of RWU’s 2018 Rail Labor History Calendar. RWU’s slogan is “the rank & file in action”, and as such, each month of this Calendar is graced with a different photo from rail labor history, depicting a strike, picket, rally or other activity selected from among hundreds of such actions over the course of the last 150 years of struggle. Over one hundred dates of historic significance to railroad workers and their unions are included throughout the calendar year.

To order yours, CLICK HERE or call 202-798-3327. For those interested in purchasing multiple copies for co-workers, friends and family members, big discounts are available on orders of five (5) or more. Help spread the word of our heroic history, and help to rebuild our confidence to engage in and win the battles that lie ahead.

  The upcoming RWU Rail Labor History Calendar for 2018 will include more than a dozen photographs of rail labor actions, both from the past and modern times, like that of engineers and trainmen pictured above, on strike in 2014 against Midwest regional rail carrier Wheeling & Lake Erie .

The upcoming RWU Rail Labor History Calendar for 2018 will include more than a dozen photographs of rail labor actions, both from the past and modern times, like that of engineers and trainmen pictured above, on strike in 2014 against Midwest regional rail carrier Wheeling & Lake Erie .

RWU Circulates "Pledge to be a Loyal Union Member"

At the April Steering Committee meeting, RWU adopted a document that is designed as a template for local unions wishing to be prepared should a national "right-to-work" bill become the law of the land.  This “Pledge of Honor to be a Loyal Union Member” is designed for rail locals around the country to make use of in their efforts to organize the local’s membership prior to any legislation being enacted. Should such a national bill become law, we want to be ready for it, and have all unions members committed to stick with the union and vow to have each others’ backs.

All union locals, divisions, and lodges are encouraged to bring the idea to their monthly union meeting for discussion. Your union may wish to adopt the "Pledge" as is, or modify it and amend it as you see fit. The important thing is to start having these discussions, and get the members mobilized and committed to remain in the union!

Here is a short exercise you can try in your next union meeting, courtesy of our friends at Labor Notes...

Contact Congress in Support of Two-person Crew Legislation

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.

   RWU has buttons, stickers, T-shirts, hats, and more, available for RWU members and the public.      Check out the RWU Store      today!

RWU has buttons, stickers, T-shirts, hats, and more, available for RWU members and the public. Check out the RWU Store today!

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.

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.

To view the archives and see all individual article from the Highball since 2008, click HERE.

Rail Teamsters Vote Teamsters United

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.

  “We in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (BLET) affiliated with the Teamsters over 12 years ago, to join a more powerful union. The BMWE joined a couple years later. But that power that the rank and file expected hasn’t materialized.    “The carriers continue to abuse the contract, discipline is more rampant and out of control, health benefits have deteriorated, and job elimination is a constant threat. The union has not stemmed the bleeding.    “So Rail Teamsters—engineers and trainmen in the BLET and track workers in the BMWED—voted for change in the Teamster International election by a 3-2 margin. That change might not be the total solution to our problems, but could be the start of a solution.”    Ron Kaminkow is an Amtrak engineer in Reno, Nevada and a member of BLET #51. He is also the General Secretary of Railroad Workers United.

“We in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (BLET) affiliated with the Teamsters over 12 years ago, to join a more powerful union. The BMWE joined a couple years later. But that power that the rank and file expected hasn’t materialized.

“The carriers continue to abuse the contract, discipline is more rampant and out of control, health benefits have deteriorated, and job elimination is a constant threat. The union has not stemmed the bleeding.

“So Rail Teamsters—engineers and trainmen in the BLET and track workers in the BMWED—voted for change in the Teamster International election by a 3-2 margin. That change might not be the total solution to our problems, but could be the start of a solution.”

Ron Kaminkow is an Amtrak engineer in Reno, Nevada and a member of BLET #51. He is also the General Secretary of Railroad Workers United.

Behavior-Based Safety: Myth or Magic?

(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.

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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.

The Railroad Workers Education & Legal Defense Foundation

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.




NOTE: Railroad Workers Education & Legal Defense Foundation does not solicit nor accept funding from any employer-related or anti-labor sources.

RWU Rail Safety Conferences

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.

Brother J.P Wright's Away-from-Home TV Report

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.

What’s Wrong with Single Employee Train Operations?

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...

Railroad Workers United 5th Biennial Convention

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!

 Delegates to the RWU 5th Biennial Convention in Chicago, IL discuss and debate resolutions on March 31, 2016.

Delegates to the RWU 5th Biennial Convention in Chicago, IL discuss and debate resolutions on March 31, 2016.

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.

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.

When we learn of a railroad fatality, we issue an ALERT that gets posted to our list serve, asking our members and supporters to take action. We compile a Listing of All Fallen Rails each year.

Each year since 2009 we have conducted Railroad Workers Memorial Day to honor and remember rails killed in the line of duty.


RWU Campaign Against Single Employee Train Crews”

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].

   Watch Mark at the SMART Convention

Watch Mark at the SMART Convention

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.

RWU Adopts a Series of New Resolutions at 5th Biennial Convention

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!

RWU Resolution in Opposition to a CP Takeover of NS

 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.

RWU Resolution of Support for a $15-an-Hour Minimum Wage

 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.

RWU Resolution in Support of an Economic “Just Transition”

 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.

RWU Resolution on the 2016 U.S. Elections

 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.

Resolution on RWU Autonomy & Independence

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.

RWU Resolution in Opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership

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.

RWU Resolution in Support of Railroad Worker Whistleblowers

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.

RWU Resolution on Building a Passenger – Worker Alliance

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 Resolution on Solidarity with Other Worker and Social Movements

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.