Report by Kamgar Ekta Committee (KEC) correspondent
In most countries the political party which comes to power claims that it is pro-people. Some of them go even further and claim that they are pro-working class. However, this illusion was once again shattered, this time in USA, where the Democratic Party has been claiming that it is the party of the working class. President Joe Biden of the Democratic Party has been repeatedly asserting that he is “the most pro-union president leading the most pro-union administration in American history”.
However, his recent action literally stabs the railroad workers. He has just signed legislation, passed by both houses of Congress (i.e. both houses of the US parliament), imposing a contract between big freight rail companies and the 11 railroad unions. Thus, with the stroke of a pen, these unions have lost their most basic right: the right to strike.
Rail unions have been trying to negotiate a contract with the carriers for three years. Their last strike was in 1992; at that time too, the Congress forced them back to work. Since that time, the rail workforce has been systematically slashed from 500,000 to only 130,000. Only 2 people work on a freight train now and the companies want to reduce them to one engineer each, to run what are called “mega monster trains.”
Four unions representing a majority of all rail workers have voted to reject the tentative agreement brokered by the President and Labor Secretary (Labour Minister) in September 2022.
The main demands of the railway workers today pertain to scheduling their work time and to take paid and unpaid time off for health situations and family commitments.
Though the profits of freight rail companies have sky-rocketed and granting paid sick leave to the workers would hardly cause a dent in them, the rail companies are refusing to do so. If they were to strike now, rail unions would be in violation of the law and would confront the capitalist state apparatus as well as the freight companies.
As it is, the 1926 Railway Labor Act severely limits the right to strike. It allows Congress to pass legislation imposing a contract on rail workers even after the workers vote to reject that contract. In the last 96 years, it has done so 18 times!
Workers have recognized that this is nothing but state-sponsored strike breaking to help some of the biggest capitalists who own the private rail companies to super exploit them!
In our country, too, there is increasing recognition of the fact that parties like the Congress and BJP that have been ruling at the Centre, are as much anti-working people while claiming to be otherwise. They are just managers of the ruling capitalist class. Their management styles are a little different, but their basic agenda is the same – serving the big capitalists. They are funded by big monopoly corporate houses to the extent of tens of thousands of crores of rupees, particularly for elections. When they are in the opposition, they have to make a lot of noise against the ruling party, so that people see them as lesser of the two evils. When elected they have to implement the agenda of the ruling class, especially of the big corporates.
This whole drama is played out in all capitalist countries. In Britain the two main actors are the so-called Labour Party and the Conservative Party. In the USA it is the so-called Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
Let us support the struggle of the US rail workers with the spirit of building solidarity of workers all over the world. An attack on one is an attack on all!