Railroad Workers United – Resolution Against Fascism, Nazism & White Supremacy

Whereas, fascist states throughout history have violently suppressed workers and their unions, sought to increase the exploitation of workers or even enslave them, stripped citizens of freedom of speech/freedom of movement, and sparked violent conflict domestically and abroad; and

Whereas, a basic hallmark of fascist regimes is the subjugation and/or outright elimination of unions and workers’ movements, including the execution, torture, exile, and general persecution of union organizers, activists and leaders, and

Whereas, German Nazism grew out of the devastation of a WWI ravished country, a fascist and racist ideology that scapegoated Jews, Gypsies, foreigners, and unions for the country’s economic woes which resulted in the murder of millions of civilians, and was defeated only at a horrific cost by the Allied forces in WWII – including the lives of thousands of Americans and Canadians – and only after 60 million had died in the war; and

Whereas, white supremacy – a fascist and racist ideology historically promoted by the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, apartheid South Africa, neo-confederate movements, and now by many newly formed alt-right groups – insists on the superiority of White Americans over other ethnicities which make up the country, advocating terrorism and genocide against them, the expulsion of undocumented immigrants, and the banning of others – based on religion and ethnicity – from immigrating to the U.S.; and

Whereas, historically, many rail companies benefitted greatly from these ideologies, making super profits by first exploiting slave labor and later Jim Crow in the South, Chinese immigrants in the west, and by keeping the railroad workforce divided by race, national origin, etc.; and

Whereas, the Ku Klux Klan has historically driven a wedge between workers, targeting not just Black workers but Jews, Catholics, Italians, Polish, Hungarians and numerous others, staging anti-union rallies and other actions, serving as employer vigilantes to violently break strikes and attacking social movements of poor and working-class people, all assisting the effort by the wealthy to keep workers divided and unions weak; and

Whereas, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has officially condemned President Trump’s remarks on the terrorist attack in Charlottesville, and several unions have taken a firm stand against these ideologies; and

Whereas, these ideologies are completely incompatible with the principles of building solidarity among all workers within the workplace, the local union, and the labor movement as a whole; and

Whereas, these ideologies are completely opposed to RWU’s principles of building unity, solidarity and democracy among all railroad workers; and

Whereas, these anti-worker/anti-union ideologies are seeing a resurgence within the United States and seek to destroy the life, liberty and happiness of thousands of American railroad workers;

Therefore, be it Resolved that RWU condemns these ideologies, and any attempts by RWU members or others to spread fascist, Nazi or white supremacist ideas within our organization; and

Be it Further Resolved that RWU members are encouraged to discuss with fellow railroaders why any growth of these ideologies will harm all railroad workers, our unions and our society as a whole; and

Be it Finally Resolved that RWU encourages railroad workers to study the history of workers who have lived under fascism, Nazism and white supremacy to gain a deeper understanding of why these ideologies pose a grave threat to our livelihoods, our solidarity, our unity, and our freedom to organize.

 

Adopted by the RWU Steering Committee 10/21/17

RWU

Advertisements

“Practice Strike!” A BMWED Teamster reports from the front line …

On November 8th, members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) a division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) participated in a national Informational Picket, or as some were calling it, a “practice strike”. Joined by various other crafts, this action was in response to the railroads’ inability to bargain in good faith and their refusal to negotiate fair wage increases and fair healthcare benefits for the membership. Despite the evidence of a union proposal which included potential savings of over $100,000,000 to the health care plan.  For the last two years, the union has been building membership participation and action for the fight for a fair contract, with the help of its Communication Action Team (CAT), made up of rank & file members across the nation.

I had the honor to organize the picket at Calumet Yard in Chicago, IL and assisted with various other pickets in Chicagoland and Northern Indiana. While picketing, I came to the realization that our action was taking place in the same neighborhood of the infamous Pullman Strike of 1894 led by Eugene V. Debs, founder of the American Railway Union (ARU) While it would be insane to compare the picket to the deadly wildcat strike that swept across the nation involving 250,000 workers in 27 states, and causing $80 million in damage. I cannot help but find a few similarities and observations in the struggles of today’s rail unions.

The Pullman Company, a manufacturer of railway cars, thought it would be a good ideal to have a company town and require the workers to live there, while also charging them rent to boost the company’s profits. It was referred to as the “model community”, filled with contented and well-paid workers. It all went to shit when Pullman decided to fire workers and decrease wages by 25%. A committee of workers tried to negotiate higher wages, lower rent, address poor living conditions, and decrease the hated 16-hour workdays. Pullman refused to meet with them and instead fired a few of the committee members. Immediately following, the workers voted to strike. The Pullman Company refused to receive any communication from the newly formed American Railway Union, who agreed to take up the cause of the strikers. The strike spread and eventually federal troops were brought in to crush the rebellion. During the course of the strike, 30 strikers were killed and 57 were wounded.

Things I find interesting 123 years later are.

  1. Railroads are still firing and laying off workers and destroying families to boost profits.
  2. With record profits, railroads are still trying to charge workers more for benefits.
  3. The railroads still refuse to bargain in good faith.
  4. Wage increases do not keep up with inflation or the costs of benefit increases.
  5. The railroads have effectively pitted unions against each other.
  6. Union officials wine and dine, and accept gifts from the railroads as if they are best buddies.
  7. During the Pullman strike, unions joined together to boycott Pullman Cars. Rail unions no longer join together except to play golf with the railroad managers.
  8. Rail union members no longer stick together.
  9. Union members will cross a picket line without any knowledge of who is picketing and why the picket is there.

Here are a few principles that as rail union members we should strive to abide by. As rail union members we should be calling for the unity of all rail crafts and an end to inter-union conflicts. This inter-union fighting has gone far enough. When the unions fight the railroads win. There are 32 railroads in one coalition (the NCCC) and 13 unions in 3 coalitions. I wonder who’s going to win that one? A better example for railroad workers and their unions to follow is the All Rail Craft Coalition (ARCC) in Kansas City, that is putting aside craft differences to join together to build power within rail labor. You guys rock!

We should be building membership participation and action. Sadly, the average union member has remained uninformed, uninterested and uninvolved. In order to effectively stand up to the carriers, we must overcome this cynicism, apathy and despair of the ranks, and build in its place a union of inspired, educated, and active members who are willing to take action on the job in defense of our jobs and our unions.

At the November 8th picket we had only one rail worker stop to see what it was all about, as he wouldn’t cross our line until we assured him that it was informational, and went on to explain our purpose. My understanding is that not crossing picket lines was a common practice 20 years ago. It is referred to as SOLIDARITY, the literal meaning of which is: “Unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group”. It is time we returned to the labor standard of “An injury to One is an Injury to All!” Only when we stand up for each other, go to bat for each other, and take action on the job in defense of each other, will we have a strong union.

After years of bad contracts that send workers backwards, we must and should say no to concessions. We should not be expecting lousy contracts and give backs. If we as union members cannot join together to fight for good contracts, then all we are accomplishing is paying dues. While paying dues is important to the operations of the union, Unity is just as important. We need to commit to the unity of all rail crafts to get good contracts and for the future of our industry.

We need to bring back rank and file democracy, lead from the bottom up not the top down. With the expanding wage gap of union officials, we must demand accountability. While there are lots of union officials that are sincere and fight for the members, we must condemn those that sell concessionary contracts and are not willing to fight for the members.

Tom Modica

BMWED Local # 1532

IMG_4146 - Copy

 

You Railroad Men – Eugene Victor Debs – 1906

You Railroad Men – Eugene Victor Debs – 1906

This appeal is made particularly to railway employees, among whom I began my career as a wage worker, with whom I spent twenty-seven consecutive years—the complete span of my young manhood—as a co employee, labor organizer and union official, and for whom I shall have an affectionate regard of peculiar tenderness that will end only with my days.

The very relation I bear them inspires me with the liveliest sense of obligation to that great body of brave and brawny men whose hands, as hard as their hearts are soft, first grasped my own in welcome as a recruit to the great army of toil; whose honest faces, beaming with approval, first warmed my heart and stirred my blood, and whose applause, the first I ever knew, fired my boyhood years with high resolves.

In every dark and trying hour these comrades of my early years stood staunch and true and pushed me on and raised me up that others might see my face and know my name, while they remained unnoticed, un-applauded, the soldiers of obscurity, the rank and file, the power class, the common herd, who made and move this world and who should be, and will yet be, its ruling aristocracy.

I believe it can be said with truth, as I am sure it can without vanity, that I personally know, and am personally known to, more railroad employees than any other man in the country; and with equal truth, I believe, that the great majority who know me better than this, the whole body of them, with but few exceptions feel kindly toward me, and may be claimed as my personal friends.

In all my travels—and I have been moving almost continually these twelve years past, over all the railways of the continent, especially since the railway corporations forcibly divorced me from their employees—in all my travels I never made a trip, nor ever expect to, without feeling many times the touch of kindness, oft in stealth, of my old comrades of railroad days.

It is not, therefore, because of any lessening of our mutual regard that I am no longer in active touch with them, but because of the stern decree of fate which commanded me to go where they might not yet follow for a while, but where they will be found in good time, united with their class, and battling manfully for freedom.

I could yet be the “grand” officer of a railway brotherhood, have a comfortable office, a large salary, plenty of friends, including railway and public officials, and read my praises as an “ideal labor leader” in capitalist newspapers, but my convictions would not allow it, and so I had to resign and, having no choice about it, I am entitled to no credit for quitting a “good” position and plunging recklessly into “a career of folly, failure and disgrace.”

It was not easy to resign, and I had to insist upon it in a way that hurt me as much as it did the loyal brothers from whom I had to tear myself apart; and it has been the first and almost the only case of voluntary resignation from a similar position.

I had been with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen almost from its birth; had organized the Brotherhood of Railroad Brakemen, now the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen; had helped to organize the Switchmen’s Mutual Aid Association, the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, the Order of Railway telegrapher, and other labor unions, and was now to organize, with half a dozen others, the American Railway Union, to embrace all railway workers, so that the engine wiper and section man might come in for their share of consideration as well as the engineer and conductor.

There is where I broke with the railway officials. They were perfectly willing that we should have a firemen’s union, but they were not willing for us to have a union that would unite all employes in the service in the equal interest of all.

This much by way of introduction. Now a word as to the purpose of this writing. I have something to say to the railway employes of America. It may not be considered as amounting to much, but I think it of importance enough to ask the railway workers to follow me through with patience, and think over what I have to say, at their own leisure.

You are told that I am too radical, that I am dangerous, that as a “leader” I am a failure, and a good many other things, but the time will come when you will know that from first to last I was true to you, and because of that very fact the corporations you work for warn you against me; and you will know furthermore that, for the opposite reason, most of your present leaders are not true to your best interests. They are “popular” with the public, and your railway officials sing their praises on every occasion and tell you over and again how wise and good these “leaders” are and how lucky you are and how proud you should be to command their valuable services.

Time will tell and I can wait. I am not courting your flattery nor evading your blame.

I am seeking no office; aspiring to no honors; have no personal ax to grind. But I have something to say to you and shall look straight into your eyes while saying it. I shall speak the truth as I see it no more and no less, in kindness and without malice or resentment.

I should tell you what I think you ought to know though all of you turned against me and despised me.

I am not wiser than you but have had more experience with capitalists and more chance to study their system of fleecing and fooling labor than most of you. I am not better than you—not so good, perhaps—for there is no better man on. earth than an honest working man. So I shall not preach to you, nor moralize to you, nor even venture to advise you, but I shall put a few facts before you that may temporarily disturb your digestion, but if you will stick to them and assimilate them you will feel yourself growing stronger and you will thank me for having changed your mental bill of fare.

Taken in the aggregate, there is no division of the working class more clannish and provincial, more isolated from other divisions of labor’s countless army, than railway employes, the workers engaged, directly and indirectly, in steam railway transportation. Nor is there a group or department in the entire working class that, outside of its own sphere of industrial activity, is more ignorant of the true essentials of the labor question or more oblivious of the class struggle and the fundamental principles and objects of the labor movement.

To verify this statement, it is not necessary to refer to the unorganized, unskilled and poorly paid employees; on the contrary, let a dozen engineers and the same numbers of conductors, picked at random, be put upon the stand and catechized from a primer on economics and see what percentage of them can give even a definition of the term. They know how to run engines and trains and, as a rule, that is practically the limit of their knowledge. That is all the corporations want them to know, and, from their point of view, all they are fit to know.

It is true that they read journals published by their unions in which a five-column account is given of a reception to some “noble grand chief,” and as many more columns about babies born and brothers buried, but which may be searched in vain for a line of revolutionary economics to nourish the brain, open the eyes, give cheer t the heart or aspiration to the soul of a corporation slave.

The several unions of railway employes, considered in any militant sense, are not labor unions at all. Warren S. Stone, grand chief of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, worthy successor of the late P. M. Arthur, is on record as having pledged his word to a well-known railway manager that the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers should never go out on strike while he was its executive head. The same grand chief is on record as threatening John J. Hannahan, grand master of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, with keeping his engineers at work on the Northern Pacific system, virtually scabbing on the firemen, if the latter went out on strike.

If the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers was a bona fide labor union instead of the fossilized tool of railway corporations its grand chief would be peremptorily impeached for treason to the working class.

The Civic Federation Review loves to print the portrait of Mr. Stone and idealize him as a “leader of labor” worthy to sit at the feast with, and at the feet of, August Belmont, Andrew Carnegie, Archbishop Ireland, and the other millionaire labor exploiters who regard workingmen as sheep to be sheared and skinned and slaughtered, and asses to be harnessed and worked and whipped, and, from that point of view, the engineers and the rest of the railway unions are to be congratulated upon their astute leadership.

It is not that Mr. Stone is personally dishonest or corrupt; he may be, and I think he is, perfectly conscientious in what he says and does, and the same is doubtless true of the grand officers of the other railway unions, but that is not the question.

If workingmen are betrayed and defeated and made to suffer, it makes little difference if their misfortunes are due to dishonest, or ignorant and incompetent, leadership.

The question is not, Are these leaders honest? Let that be conceded. The question is, Are they true to the working class. If their official attitude does not square with the working class as a whole, then they are not in line with the true interests of their own union and are not in fact the friends, but the enemies of labor; not serving, but betraying those who trust and follow them.

In saying this and making the further statement that the existing railway brotherhoods are of far more actual benefit to the railway corporations than they are to the employes who support them, and that in some essential respects they are a positive detriment to their members in teaching them to venerate a “grand” officer, subjecting themselves, bound and gagged, to his “official sanction,” and in keeping them in economic ignorance

— in saying these things, it is possible that Grand Chief Stone of the Engineers, and other “grand” officials may take issue;

and here let me say that nothing would please me better than the chance to meet Mr. Stone before his engineers, or any other grand official before his followers, at any time, or in any public place, to prove every assertion herein made, and more, too; and I shall not object if the grand officers invite their friends, the railway officials, to occupy their accustomed seats on the platform, but I will not guarantee that the menu will be as agreeable to their corporation palates as that served at a recent Chicago banquet of the Order of Railway conductors, or at the average brotherhood convention.

Now to another branch of the question: According to the report of the interstate commerce commission there were, for the year ending June 30, 1904, a total of 1,206,121 employes on the railways of the United States, as against 1,017,653 in 1900, an increase in four years of 278,468. How many thousands of unemployed there are, ready to take jobs when they are offered, in event of a strike, or otherwise, the reports do not say.

Since 1904 there has been great increase in railroad activities and it is probable that the total has since reached 1,400,000. In 1894 the number was 779,608. That was during the last period of “hard times.” In the ten years since, from 1894 to 1904, from “panic” to “prosperity,” the number of railway employes has been almost doubled, the actual increase being 620,392, an average over 60,00 a year. Fully five hundred thousand (500,000) new railroad men have been made in that time, and they have swelled the brotherhoods to unprecedented limits.

Now keep your eye “peeled” for the signal for the return trip from “prosperity” to “panic.”

That is not a matter of guess, but of arithmetic.

It may not come next month or next year, but it will come, and the longer it is in coming the longer will be the backward trip.

Railway employes, as a rule, do not know why there are alternating periods of “panic” and “prosperity”; panic that paralyzes, but prosperity that does not prosper, except for the plutocrats.

The reason they do not know is that they are ignorant of working class economics, which are not discussed by their leaders, nor in their journals, and this accounts for the further fact that nearly all of them vote these sufferings upon themselves, as non political labor unionists uniformly do, while their unions, vaccinated by the corporation doctor against politics, becomes parties to “grand balls,” such as the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen has given in Chicago, and the “grand banquet” held by the Order of Railway Conductors in the same city, where the “grand march” is led by the capitalist mayor and a “grand” officer, and “grand” officials of the railroads beam approvingly, while “grand” corporation politicians disport themselves in huge diamonds and swallow-tail and “grand” speeches are spouted about the “brotherhood of capital and labor,” the choicest lobster on the bill; the whole “green goods” affair being concocted by a tool of the corporations who belongs to the union and who, as a smooth politician, is on the payroll at the city hail, or the state house, or capitol. Such nauseating exhibitions—planned by sycophants and patronized by plutocrats—are given to hoodwink the common herd and keep it forever in the capitalist corrals of wage slavery.

Political conspiracy is the term to apply to these doings of the henchmen of capital, masquerading in the garb of labor, who are so fearful that their dupes may wake up and go into politics.

But to return for a moment. Keep your eye open for that signal! When Wall Street says the word you’ll see the signal, but it will not prevent you and your little union from going into the ditch. The signal and the slump will come together.

Several hundred thousand of you will be left high and dry; no jobs, but plenty of time to tramp and think. What next? Sweeping reductions of wages. Next—Strikes? Probably. And then? Defeat and disaster!

That’s the history of all the “panics” of the last thirty years. They have all been ushered in with widespread railroad strikes, and when the crash has come the brotherhoods have burst like bubbles and been crushed like eggshells, utterly powerless to give their members the least particle of protection. This is what has uniformly come to the unions that waste their time at such child’s play as “exemplification of secret work” and studying signs and passwords, as if every corporation did not have its union reporter to inform it of every move worth knowing.

And so it will be again. Mark it! Make a note of it! Ask your grand officer about it and make a note of his answer. Don’t allow him to dodge by calling me a calamity howler. He will help you after the lightning has struck your job by certifying that you are entitled to another, but you will have to hunt it alone, and in the meantime the “brotherhood of capital and labor” will have suspended and cannot save your wife from eviction, nor your children from starvation.

Think it out; don’t let go till you do! Don’t take my word; rely on yourself! I can’t help you railway slaves. You only can help yourselves. No one else can. If you don’t even know that you are slaves in the existing capitalist system, the gods have mercy on you, for your blindness is complete; your condition is pitiable and there is no hope for you but death.

The Most pathetic object to me is a corporation slave with a dazzling diamond or a constellation of brass buttons to decorate his deformity and hide the hollows in his gray matter. He swells like a toad as he talks about the good wages “we” are paying; he is a part of the corporation, as a pimple is a part of the plutocrat. He has hinges in his knees. He fawns like a spaniel at the feet of an official, but snarls like a cur at the car inspector or track man. He believes in the “brotherhood of capital and labor’; he is “conservative”; is opposed to politics in the union or the journal; talks about his masters as “our superiors”; is proud of his pusillanimity; does with alacrity what he is ordered to do and asks no questions; is a scab at heart, if not in fact; has no trace of manhood, no self-respect, no honor craven hearted and stonysouled—and when he dies Judas Iscariot will have another recruit for his army of the damned.

In his address to the joint committee of the several brotherhoods of railway employes that called at the White House on November 14, 1905, to plead in behalf of the railway corporations, President Roosevelt among other things, said: “I would be false to your interests if I failed to do justice to the capitalist as much as to the wage worker.”

The president was much impressed by the delegation and the delegation by him. The president was really addressing his own brethren, for, like themselves, he was a brotherhood man, and had the grip, sign and passwords, all up to date; and they were all agreed that no injustice must be done to the poor capitalists. The latter themselves were not in evidence. Their president and their brotherhoods would see that no harm came to them.

In his message to the banquet of the Order of Railway Conductors, given at Chicago on December 31, 1905, in behalf of the railroad corporations, and presided over by Major (?) B.B. Ray, paymaster, U. S. A., in recognition of his faithful services in lining up railway employes in support of the corporation ticket on election day, and as smooth a politician as ever came down the avenue—in his communication to this corporation auxiliary, regretting his inability to mingle with the railway presidents and managers who were in attendance to point around at the conductors as evidence that the working class in general, and the railway slaves in particular, were opposed to rate legislation in his telegram of regret Vice President Fairbanks, once himself a railroad attorney and now a magnate, said:

”The Order of Railway Conductors * * * recognizes in full degree the right of both employer and employee and understands full well that in a large sense the interests of one are the interests of the other, and that the interests of neither can be disregarded without harm to both.”

Precisely! “Our interests are one,” exclaimed the fox, after devouring the goose. “Same here,” answered the hawk, with the feathers of the dove still clinging to his beak. “I’m with you,” chipped in the shark; and 18

“I congratulate you upon your wise political economy” was the amen of the lion as the lamb’s tail disappeared down the red lane.

Toastmaster Ray, the mortgaged major of the railroads, read another telegram of regret from President “Jim” Hill, of the Great Northern, and then President Delano, of the Wabash, was introduced and proceeded to orate on “Opposition to Railroad Rate Legislation.” The dummies are reported to have nodded in hearty approval every time he looked at them. President Delano might have stayed at home and used a string to operate his puppets.

Upon this important point of “identity of interests,” between lion and mutton, President Roosevelt, vice President Fairbanks and all the railroad presidents, corporations and brotherhoods are a unit.

The railroads furnish the lion and the brotherhoods the mutton.

It is upon this false basis, this vicious assumption, this fundamental lie, that the railroad brotherhoods are organized, and in that capacity they are of incalculable value to the railroads, the very bulwarks of their defense, and the sure means of keeping the great body of railway employees in economic ignorance, and, therefore, unorganized, divided and helpless.

Such unionism means organized strength for the railroads and organized weakness for the employees. And the latter foot the bill. No wonder their grand officers get annual passes and their delegates free trains. The stupid employees pay for them all a hundredfold.

And to what base purpose the railroad magnates put these brotherhoods to still further entrench their power and perpetuate their reign of robbery!

At this very moment they are using them as political pokers to stir up the fire of public sentiment against rate legislation. And the poor dupes that pay the dues don’t even know that their unions are in politics, corporation politics, the dirtiest of all politics.

On their own account the unions are forbidden to have anything to do with politics that would fracture their delicate diaphragm—but when the corporations need them as political tools—ah, that’s different; that’s what they are for!

Cannot you hoodwinked railway slaves begin to see something?

In all the history of organized labor, from the earliest times to the present day, no body of union workingmen ever served in a more humiliating and debasing role than that in which the railway unions appear at this very hour before the American people and the world.

It is a spectacle for the gods, and future generations will marvel that such an exhibition of servility was possible in the twentieth century.

Union workingmen, rallying round the robbers of the working class, and defending them against their own people!

It is true that there is nothing in rate legislation for the workingman, but the incident loses none of its significance on that account. The free use of the brotherhoods by and for the corporations, at election time, when the legislature meets, when congress is in session, whenever and wherever required—that is the point.

How smoothly this emergency appliance works!

The corporations sniff danger: they send for their officials the officials for the “grand chiefs” of the brotherhoods the “grand chiefs” for their decoy ducks, and presto! a joint committee—and it is. “joint” committee—serves notice on the president and the country that the million and more railway employees want no interference with the divine right of the railroad robbers to hold up, the people. Then another set of political tools of the same robbers take their cue and bound to their feet in the capitalist congress and in a comic burst of paid for passion, exclaim: “Don’t you see, gentlemen, that organized labor, the horny handed nobility of the land, the muscle and sinew, the very backbone of the nation, recognizes this measure as a menace to its “full dinner pail” and interpose its righteous indignation? Gentlemen, we dare not make such an assault upon the dignity, the sacred rights, aye, the very life of honest toil!”

That settles it! The trick is done. The Goulds, Vanderbilts and Harrimans are on top, their slaves at the bottom, and their “identity of interests” is once more triumphantly vindicated.

I propose now to deal briefly with that ghastly lie itself.

In what way, Mr. Railroad Slave, is your interest identical with that of “Jim” Hill, your master?

He owns the railway system that you workingmen built and now operate.

He pulls every dollar of profit out of it for himself he can, and leaves you not one dollar more than he must.

If you don’t suit him, he discharges you, and you then have to pull up stakes and hunt another master. He gets the lion’s share, you get what’s left; and in the aggregate, that is fixed by what is required to fill your dinner pail, cover you with overalls and maintain a habitation where you can raise more wage slaves to take your place when you are worn out and go to the scrap heap.

The “Jim” Hills live out of your labor—out of your ignorance—for if you were not densely stupid you would not be their dumb-driven cattle.

Now they and their politicians and preachers and “labor leaders” tell you how bright and smart you are to flatter your ignorance, and keep you from opening your eyes to your slavish condition, and above all, to the wage-system, which lies at the bottom of your poverty and degradation.

Your interests as wage slaves are not only not identical with’ but are directly opposed to, the interests of the “Jim” Hills and the railroad corporations, and I challenge any of your “grand chiefs” to deny it in my presence on any public platform.

You have got to get rid of the capitalist leeches that suck your heart’s blood through the quill of “identity of interests.”

They are in the capitalist class; you are in the working class. They gouge out profits; what’s left you get for wages. They perform no useful work; you deform your bodies with slavery. They are millionaires; you are paupers. They have everything; you do everything. They live in palaces; you in shanties. They have abundance of leisure and mountains of money; you have neither. Finally, they are few; you are legions!

Poor, dumb giant, you could in a breath extinguish your pigmy exploiter, were you only conscious of your overmastering power!

The workers made and operate all the railroads; the capitalists had and have nothing to do with either. They pocket the proceeds on a basis of watered stock and other “stock,” in the form of employees, and then issue fraudulent reports to show on what a small margin of profit they are actually doing business.

In this connection it should be said that the railroads pad their “operating expenses” outrageously to deceive their employees and the general public, and their reports can be shown to be full of duplicity and fraud. They are not required to itemize their “operating expenses” in their reports to the interstate commerce commission; this they only do in the reports of the directors to the stockholders, and an examination of these will disclose the swindle and show how much reliance can be placed in the public reports of private grafters.

Mr. Railway Slave, to resume our interview, you are not in the same class with the “Jim” Hills of the railroads. You don’t visit at their homes; nor they at yours. You don’t ride in their private cars and yachts and automobiles. Your wives don’t wear the same kind of clothes and jewelry and move in the same circle with theirs. You don’t join them in their luxuriant travels to Europe when they are received by the crowned heads and other parasites and given a private audience by the pope. You stay at home and sweat and suffer to foot all the bills; they do all the rest.

To sum up: They are in the capitalist class; you in the working class. They are masters; you slaves. They fleece and pluck; you furnish the wool and feathers.

That is the basis of the class struggle.

Upon that basis you have got to organize and fight before you can move an inch toward freedom.

You have got to unite in the same labor union and in the same political party and strike and vote together, and the hour you do that, the world is yours.

The railroads will oppose this; they want to keep you divided and at their mercy. Your grand officers will oppose it; they want to keep you divided and continue to draw their salaries. When you have a little time figure out the amount annually paid to the grand officers of the railway unions in salaries and expenses, and you will be amazed; you will also understand why railroad employees will never get together as long as their grand officers can prevent it.

By the way, why do you persist in calling your officers “Grand Chiefs” and “Grand Masters”? Are they “grand” because you are petty?

The working class, the rank and file, are grander than all the labor leaders, good and bad, that ever lived.

A “Master” implies slaves. It is bad enough to be slaves without glorying in it. A “Master’ is bad enough; a “Grand Master” is the limit, especially if the title is voluntarily conferred by the slaves.

There was a time when I did not realize this and many other things I now do. The difference is that I have learned to think and can now see these things as they are.

The capitalist class! The working class!

The class struggle! These are the supreme economic and political facts of this day and the precise terms that express them.

These are the grim realities in the existing capitalist system, and the sooner you drop your brotherhood toys and deal with the labor question, to which most of you are strangers, the better will it be for you.

What is the labor question?

It is the question of the working class organizing to overthrow the capitalist class, emancipating itself from wage slavery and making itself the ruling class of the world.

Can this be done?

Anything can be done by the working class.

Labor has but to awaken to its own power. Then the earth and all its fullness will be for labor. Now the exploiters of labor have it; and they must be put out of business and into useful service.

First of all, you railroad workers, you million and almost a half of slaves, must wake up; realize that you are a part of the working class and that the whole working class must unite, close up the ranks and present a solid front, every day in the year, election day especially included.

As individual wage slaves you are helpless and your condition hopeless. As a class, you are the greatest power between the earth and the stars. As a class, your chains turn to spider webs and in your presence capitalists shrivel up and blow away.

The individual wage slave must recognize the power of class unity and do all he can to bring it about.

That is what is called class consciousness, in the light of which may be seen the class struggle in startling vividness.

The class-conscious worker recognizes the necessity of organization, economic and political, and of using every weapon at his command the strike, the boycott, the ballot and every other to achieve his emancipation.

He, therefore. joins the union of his class and the party of his class and gives his time and energy to the work of educating and lining up his class for the struggle of his class for emancipation.

may think you are doing this now, but you are not. You are wasting most of your time and money for that which will bring n returns.

Let me tell you a few things the railroad corporations and your leaders, between whom there is an “identity of interests,” are having you do to occupy your time and keep you chained to the kennels of your masters.

First—They have you divided into petty groups, each trying to be it, and not one having any real power for working class good.

Second—They have you quarreling about jurisdiction and about an “open door,” and the corporations smile serenely while you play with these toys.

Your jurisdiction squabbles never will be settled, but will grow worse. At places the B. L. E. and B. L. F. are at swords’ points, and the 0. R. C. and B. R. T. are ready to fly at each other’s throats; and so intense is the petty craft jealousy that they are ready to scab on one another.

And if they ever go out on strike, particularly the B. L. E., their own former members, victimized by them, will rise up to smite them.

The other day I met a man who had an official position that paid him $5,000.00 a year. Said he to me: “I will quit this job for but one thing, and that will be to take an engine when the B. L. E. go out on strike.” He used to be a member.

There are any number of men scattered over the country—most of them its own former members—waiting for the B. L. E. to strike, and the day is not distant when that union will reap the harvest it has sown.

Third—You are kept apart from other workers, for it would be dangerous if you affiliated with them and go an idea above the roundhouse or caboose or cab you work in. Besides, you might get class conscious and that would endanger your slavery.

Fourth—You spend your hours in the lodge room, “riding the goat,” getting the secret work “down fine,” giving “passwords” and “signs,” and unpacking job lots of “secret work” that any railroad official in the country can have any day he wants it.

These are but bibs and rattles for mental babies, and the more time you amuse yourselves with them the less danger there is of your thinking about anything that will break your chains and set you free.

These are a few of the things; I have not space for more. The hundreds of columns of stale stuff rehashed for years in your journals that might be called goose gossip would, perhaps, be excusable in the official organ of some feeble-minded asylum, but it is woefully out-of-place in a working-class publication.

Now let me say a few more things and space will allow only a few of the many that might be put down that you may think about at your leisure.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineer is forty-two years old and has never won a railway strike of any consequence in all its career.

It is called success because the corporations make some concessions to it so as to use it as a battering ram against other employees in the service; and this is substantially true of all the brotherhoods. Then, again, the brotherhoods are used against each other.

The union switchman on the Denver and Rio Grande, at Pittsburg and other places; the engineers on the C., B. & Q. the telegraph operators on the A. & P., M., K. & T., Great Northern and Northern Pacific; and the machinists on the Santa Fe are but a few of the long list of victims of the “dog eat dog” unionism, a quarter of a century behind the times.

But the grand officers of the several unions attend one another’s conventions and join in solemn chorus in telling the delegates of each other’s unions what wise grand officers they love, how kind the corporations are to them, and how proud they ought to be of their noble brotherhoods.

In the next few years locomotive engineers will become motormen and firemen will disappear. It is safe to say that in another twenty years locomotive firemen will be practically of the past. They can then cling to their last straw—their insurance policy—and that is the main thing that holds them together today. But for that they would soon cave in, and that is true of them all. They are then, primarily, coffin clubs and not labor unions. They care for the sick and bury the dead—a good thing, incidentally, for the corporations. To get the full benefits, it is necessary to be maimed or killed.

It is well to bury the dead, but the living are infinitely more important.

One effective blow to break the chains of wage slavery is better than a century of attention to dead bodies.

Class consciousness is better than corpse-consciousness.

A good deal more that should be said must be omitted for the want of time and space.

It is my hope that the facts here presented may lead the railroad workers to study the real labor question. A few of them only know what Socialism is, and they are Socialists. The rest are opposed to it because the little they know about it is not true.

No honest workingman understands Socialism without embracing it.

The railroad workers, if they want their eyes opened, must read class struggle literature.

The paper in which they originally read this address, the Appeal to Reason, with a circulation of over three hundred thousand copies, can be obtained for a trifle fifty cents for a whole year and if they can’t afford that, they can send ten cents for a trial subscription.

They cannot afford to remain in ignorance of the class struggle, or of what Socialism really means.

A mighty social revolution is impending it is shaking the earth from center to circumference, and only the dead may be deaf to its rumblings.

Revolutionary education and organization is the vital need of the working class.

Let every railroad employee who is alive enough to want to know how the working class can emancipate the working class and walk the earth free, and enjoy all its manifold blessings, subscribe for a revolutionary paper and read it for a year; and he will then find himself with the rest of us, in class conscious array, in the struggle for freedom.

Great is the privilege we enjoy in being permitted to take part in this mighty historic struggle.

The base and cowardly will sneer and sneak to the rear, but the brave and true, though hell itself gape, will do battle with all the blood in their veins, and write their names in living letters on the shining scroll of LABOR’S EMANCIPATION.

A Message to the Railroad Workers United social media Admins – from organizer, J.P. Wright

A message to the RWU social media Admins …

If you see a person, posting comments, and then you look over their personal facebook page and see that the person is just way off of right or left … and that person doesn’t list a railroad or railroad related job in their profile, and the person is making comments that are just way over the top …

by all means – remove them from our social media group.

You will notice on the left hand side of the group page there is a list of  choices. One of them is, members. When you click on members, you will find a place to search for a specific member. When you find the person in question, there is a box just right of their name with three dots. Click on that box and select, remove from group.

The only thing I ask, is that before someone is kicked out, that we make sure that they are not just making statements that we disagree with. If their statements are aggressive in tone, mean in nature and violent, then well …

if the statements are “anti-union” well …

folks have a right to be (anti union) pissed, especially when the union sells them down the river. Being pissed and angry with the union is one thing and Anti-Union is another.

When political posts get posted, and they do get posted, and sometimes the posts immediately become a firestorm of commenting – as long as the person posting Republican, “conservative” or Democrat, “liberal” positions … ect.ect – is a railroader, then I personally think we make better hay allowing that person to have access to our Railroad Workers United hosted forum – as long as that person is not making personal attacks and threats.

Remember what Eugene V. Debs said a very long time ago.

Taken in the aggregate, there is no division of the working class more clannish and provincial, more isolated from other divisions of labor’s countless army, than railway employes, the workers engaged, directly and indirectly, in steam railway transportation. Nor is there a group or department in the entire working class that, outside of its own sphere of industrial activity, is more ignorant of the true essentials of the labor question or more oblivious of the class struggle and the fundamental principles and objects of the labor movement.

One of the things that I think about when moderating and dealing with “trolls” and people who have learned the “union thug” style of conversation, is about when my son used to work with an Ojibwa woman who had a herd of 60 horses. She re-socialized work and race horses.

When she would get a new thoroughbred in to socialize and rehabilitate, the horse would come into the herd acting all badass and mean. When that behavior started, the lead matriarch horse would come and run the new horse out of the herd. The new horse, figuring out that the mean, aggressive, non herd supported behavior – was not going to get it accepted by the herd, would end up confused and standing alone far from the group.

After a few days of being chased out of the group and standing alone under a tree, most of the new, mean horses would change their aggressive behavior and find a place in the herd.

When moderating our page and a new member decides to personally attack me, you, RWU, or another person’s opinions – we should remain principled and calm. We should also allow that person a space to keep showing their ass. When that sort of bull-headed behavior is happening  – We need RWU moderators to:

1. Mention in their posts that they are members of RWU.

2. Remain principled – while calmly presenting our “culture” of respectful communication.

3. If the person, who is trolling, does not stop acting aggressively and the commenting is over the top, then by all means, kick them out.

Before I got hired on with the railroad, I worked for 6 years in my community with at risk, poverty stricken – African American kids. I worked with about 18 kids at a time. Many of the kids were either gang kids, or being pressured by gang related activity in their neighborhoods. The kids were primarily 12 to 18 years of age.

Many times we would get a new kid in who would come in with aggressive, mean behavior. They were met head on with an established group culture that:

Verbally beating up on the leaders of the group or bullying other kids, was not a social norm. I was mostly working with gang kids. Boys.

Except we had girls in the group too. So you can imagine, even without the gang behavior, how boys and girls might have acted to get each others attention.

When a new kid came in, it was the other kids and their established culture that kept the aggression at bay. Aka, it wasn’t going to get you good attention from the social group. The boys and girls already had been schooled that aggression and bullying was not the way of the group.

Railroad Workers United should be that culture that I am talking about. RWU members should be able to be the cool heads in the group and,

we just can’t go kicking out people we don’t agree with …

unless they are attacking people, or are obviously not railroaders or solidarity members and are joining the group to cause trouble.

and remember, the RWU hosted page is not RWU! It is a open forum hosted by RWU. Our deeply held principles of solidarity and democracy are what makes us unique. Our open style forum is only a small part of what we do.

Make sure to mention that point every once in awhile in posts and in commenting.

Happy herding.
JP Wright
RWU organizer

10269422_10204089660465957_1895570458359022449_n

(far right) Organizer JP Wright in 1999 working with Pigeon Nest Education – Urban Ministry and Arts.

Rail Rank & File Must Reject Craft Union Officials’ War of Words

Rank & file railroaders need to take a strategic approach to bargaining, and remain focused on our long-term goals and objectives. As such, the current war of words among the rail craft union “leadership” is a diversion. RWU encourages all railroad workers to avoid the provocations and hence temptation to be drawn into the divisive finger pointing, name calling, and blaming.

Railroad workers – especially younger rails who have ten, twenty or thirty more years to work –  must remember that we are in this for the long-haul. Regardless of whether one supports or opposes the TA negotiated by the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC) and the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG), this will not be the last contract we ever negotiate. In fact, this contract is partially retroactive, and in a few short years, we are back at the table once more to negotiate the next national agreement. Do we want to go into those upcoming negotiations divided?

Will all the accusatory vitriol of today assist us in building the necessary unity and solidarity we need to win a good contract next time?

And it is not just national handling that we need concern ourselves with. Many subjects of bargaining – in fact most – are now handled within “on property” agreements. Many of these negotiations are on the horizon. Will we be united going into these efforts if we buy into this kind of fratricidal rhetoric that is being served up by these irresponsible union leaders?

RWU has maintained since our founding a decade ago that the disparate rail unions must come together as one if we expect to win at the bargaining table. One of three original campaigns, the RWU Campaign for Coordinated Bargaining takes the position that “United we bargain, divided we beg”; and that “An injury to one is an injury to all”, and finally that “No one settles until all settle”. This is not a radical strategy or some pie-in-the sky notion. Rather, this is basic, fundamental trade unionism. But we are perennially faced with a glaring obstacle, the fact that we are divided into more than a dozen unions and as a result, cannot act as a union should naturally act.

There is unfortunately, no “railroad workers union”.

As a direct result of this glaring failure on the part of craft unionism, we are perennially divided, severely handicapped, always fighting a battle with one hand tied behind our backs. The quagmire we are now in is not new. The myriad craft unions each take their turn, this or that one settling first, leaving the others hung out to dry, while the name-calling and accusations run amok.

The basic tenants of solidarity teach us that it is unacceptable to have White railroaders in one organization, Blacks in another, women in another, Hispanics in another, Catholics in yet another, and so forth. We understand and appreciate the fact that railroad workers of different background, genders, race and creed must ALL stand together as one. That is what a union is. Why then is it acceptable that we be divided by craft and group into these absurd craft unions, which then form illogical and ineffectual “coalitions”, only to break down and proceed to fight viciously with one another? As Eugene V. Debs – founder of the American Railway Union – stated more than a hundred years ago:

“Why should the railroad employees be parceled out among a score of different organizations? They are all employed in the same service. Their interests are mutual. They ought to be able to act together as one…”

Regardless of the disgraceful way that so-called union “leaders” choose to address one another, it is imperative that rank & file railroaders be civil, courteous, and respectful of one another and each other’s views on this contract. If you believe it is a good contract, vote for it and explain why. If you think it is fundamentally lacking, but is the best that we can get given the context at this time, vote for it with that caveat. And if you think it is a terrible contract, explain why, and vote against it. But for rank & file working railroaders, it is unacceptable to slander and degrade one another.

Union officials in positions of leadership in the various craft unions tend to be older, in many cases approaching or even past retirement age.

Some will not be around for the next round of bargaining. And most all will be gone within a decade. Practically none of them will ever perform service under this or any other future agreement. As such, we rank & filers have differing interests from them. So, we must not take our cues from them when they refuse to even pay lip service to the obvious need for a single unified bargaining coalition, and instead irresponsibly whip up craft animosity and inter-union strife. We will be here for many years to come. We will continue to work alongside each other. And we will live and work under the contracts that are negotiated. Therefore, we must not be drawn into the union officials’ war of words, but rather, continue to forge solidarity and unity with one another across craft and union lines if we hope to succeed in the long run.

Solidarity Forever!

Ron Kaminkow

RWU General Secretary

The Importance of Participation in Your Union

The lifeblood of any union is its membership. Simply put, unions have power because they are, in effect, amalgamations of the collective strength of their membership. Each of us alone has very little power in the face of the overwhelming power of a Class One Fortune 500 rail corporation. But together through the union, we can defend our interests and win better wages, benefits and working conditions.

But this does not happen by magic. It does not happen simply because you pay your dues. It does not happen simply because you hold a union card. It does not happen because your leadership has superior intelligence or wisdom. The way we achieve power through the union is by membership participation and mobilization. There are countless ways that you can participate in the life of your union. Below are twelve ways to take part:

  • Read your union newsletter, union bulletin boards, communiqués and other information.
  • Check out the union’s website regularly for updates of what is going on
  • Familiarize yourself with the union agreements – master contract, on-property agreement, and local agreements.
  • File claims in a timely manner when you are aware that the company has violated the contract.
  • Stay abreast of union issues at the local, general committee and international level.
  • To the extent possible, always maintain cordial and fraternal relations with your co-workers, your union brothers and sisters, and assist in building a workplace based on trust and solidarity.
  • Participate in union campaigns both formal and informal while at work on the job. Stick together and refuse to be picked off by management for short-sighted selfish ends. Think, talk and act UNION every day!
  • Attend your union meeting, get to know the leadership and players in the local. There is no better way to learn what is going on. There is no better place to voice your concerns and let your voice be heard.
  • Once eligible and knowledgeable of the issues, consider running for union office.
  • Participate in union trainings, educational forums and conferences.
  • Wear your union T-shirt, jacket, hat, button or other items to work and show your support for your union to both your co-workers and the company alike.
  • Mentor new employees and fellow union members, welcome them into the union and the workplace, and share your knowledge and wisdom that you have gained in your months/years as a rail.

It can be intimidating at first to play an active role in your union. All too often local union leaders and “old heads” have a cynical and/or distrustful attitude toward new members. This bad attitude can even affect some of your co-workers who are not much “older” than you! But do not be deterred. You have every right, in fact, the obligation to participate in your union.

Ultimately you will win the respect and acknowledgement of your fellow union members. Speak your peace quietly and firmly, stand up for what is right, stand up for your rights and the rights of your co-workers, refuse to be intimidated or bought off by the company, and you will find a warm and welcome place in the union. Solidarity!