More On The Rail Strike

I have been following the possibility of a rail strike that will strike(no pun intended) fear and hate in the eyes of the consumer…..but all that could be premature…..Biden has ridden in on his white horse to save his bacon.

The House moved urgently to head off the looming nationwide rail strike on Wednesday, passing a bill that would bind companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached in September but rejected by four of the 12 unions involved. The measure passed by a vote of 290-137 and now heads to the Senate. If approved there, it will be quickly signed by President Biden, who on Monday asked Congress to intervene and avert the rail stoppage, which would unleash an estimated $2 billion-per-day hit on the economy. The unions have threatened to strike if an agreement can’t be reached before a Dec. 9 deadline.

Lawmakers from both parties expressed reservations about overriding the negotiations. And the intervention was particularly difficult for Democratic lawmakers who have traditionally sought to align themselves with the politically powerful labor unions that criticized Biden’s move, the AP reports. Democrats responded to that concern by adding a second vote Wednesday that would add seven days of paid sick leave per year for rail workers covered under the agreement; that bill passed 221 to 207, reports the Washington Post. It will take effect only if the Senate goes along and passes both measures. The call for more paid sick leave was a major sticking point in the talks.

The railroads say the unions have agreed in negotiations over the decades to forgo paid sick time in favor of higher wages and strong short-term disability benefits. The unions maintain that railroads can easily afford to add paid sick time at a time when they are recording record profits. Several of the big railroads involved in these contract talks reported more than $1 billion profit in the third quarter. Republicans voiced support for the measure to block the strike, but criticized the Biden administration for turning to Congress to “step in to fix the mess” and criticized Pelosi’s decision to add the sick leave second bill to the mix. They said the Biden administration’s own special board of arbitrators recommended higher wages to compensate the unions for not including sick time in its recommendations.

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/11/30/house-passes-paid-sick-leave-railway-workers-despite-opposition-207-republicans

So will this settle the problems with band-aid solutions?

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

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The Looming Rail Strike

We hear about this from only one side…..that being it will screw the American consumer….this makes for a great campaign ad and of course it will be Biden’s fault and should give ammo to the GOP attacks as we enter into 2023.

But as with all issues that are used to divide the country there is more to this than the simplistic BS of the Right….

A new analysis shines fresh light on U.S. railroad giants’ “greedy behavior”—from gorging on their own stock to ramping up fees to pad their bottom lines—as workers struggle for basic rights and benefits in ongoing contract negotiations that could result in the first national rail strike in decades.

Updated figures compiled by the watchdog group Accountable.US and released Tuesday show that BNSF, a subsidiary of billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway that operates one of North America’s largest railroad networks, saw its net income rise 4% to $4.4 billion during the first three quarters of 2022. Union Pacific, meanwhile, saw its profits jump 11% to $5.36 billion during that period.

In those nine months, Union Pacific spent nearly $8 billion on stock buybacks and dividend payouts to shareholders, Accountable.US notes.

The rail transportation giant CSX reported a 37% surge in Fiscal Year 2021 net income, the watchdog added, and the company repurchased $3.7 billion worth of its own shares during the first three quarters of this year.

Rail workers haven’t fared nearly as well as industry giants and their wealthy executives and shareholders. For the past three years, many rail employees have worked under increasingly grueling conditions without a raise as management continues to resist demands for changes to draconian attendance policies, better pay, and foundational quality-of-life benefits such as paid sick leave.

“The same wealthy rail industry executives that say they can’t afford to pay their workers fair wages all had banner years in net revenue and shareholder giveaways,” said Liz Zelnick, a spokesperson for Accountable.US. “The big rail industry’s own earnings reports show they didn’t need to cut corners on safety and gouge businesses with excessive fees that get passed onto consumers. It only adds up to one thing: greed.”

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/11/23/greedy-behavior-profit-hungry-rail-industry-blamed-looming-strike

As usual it is the ‘robber barons’ that are the problem NOT the workers…..but not to worry Biden has a plan to avoid a strike….

President Biden urged Congress on Monday evening to immediately approve legislation that would head off a railroad shutdown by forcing workers and companies to enact the tentative agreement they reached in September. Without final approval of the deal, a shutdown could begin Dec. 9, per Axios. “As a proud pro-labor president, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement,” Biden said in a statement. “But in this case—where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families—I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a statement later saying the House will consider the legislation this week, though she echoed Biden’s reluctance to interfere with ratification. A shutdown, she said, “would grind our economy to a halt.” The Senate would be next, and Democrats there would have enough Republican support to overcome a potential filibuster, per CNN. Members of four of the 12 unions involved have rejected the agreement, per Politico. Many workers want a few sick days added to the deal, which was brokered by the administration. Biden said further negotiation could cause delays leading to a work stoppage.

Under the Railway Labor Act of 1926, with interstate commerce in play, Congress could put the contract in force or extend the “cooling-off period” to keep trains running during negotiations. Business groups said a shutdown could lead to shortages, higher prices, and a halt to factory production with, for example, the movement of 6,300 carloads of food and farm products a day disrupted. And passenger service for 7 million people a day would be affected, the groups said. Railroads would suspend the shipping of hazardous chemicals and fertilizers, as well as perishable goods, before a shutdown so they wouldn’t be stuck someplace.

As a labor organizer from years ago I support the workers…..if these companies have extra cash to buy back their stocks then they have the cash to pay the workers descent salaries and benefits.

The GOP will try to inyervene….at least Bernie has come out in defense of the workers…..

A House Republican from Pennsylvania said Sunday that Congress will intervene to stop a nationwide strike if rail companies and unions don’t reach a contract agreement soon, a step that would likely force workers to accept a deal without any paid sick days.

Acknowledging that rail workers “have a very reasonable ask” for better benefits and wages as they continue to labor under a punishing scheduling system, Rep. Brian Kevin Fitzpatrick said in a Fox News appearance Sunday that “Congress will not let this strike happen, that’s for sure.”

“It would be devastating for our economy” Fitzpatrick added. “We’ll get to a resolution one way or another.”

Powerful industry groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Association of American Railroads have been pressuring Congress to step in after members of the largest rail union in the United States voted to reject a White House-brokered contract deal that rebuffed workers’ push for at least 15 days of paid sick leave. The deal, touted by the Biden White House as a victory for workers and profitable rail companies, does not include a single paid sick day.

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2022/11/28/sanders-vows-stand-rail-workers-republican-says-congress-will-prevent-strike

Pressuring?  You realize that means bribing the Congress to see their way, right?

The one thing you can be sure of in the strike outcome…..the workers will lose and massive profits will flow.

Enough said!

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Pending Rail Strike

The huge story today is the possibility of a rail strike that is looming.

Let’s say it occurs….what will be the costs to us mere mortals?

American consumers and nearly every industry will be affected if freight trains grind to a halt next month. One of the biggest rail unions rejected its deal Monday, joining three others that have failed to approve contracts over concerns about demanding schedules and the lack of paid sick time. That raises the risk of a strike, which could start as soon as Dec. 5, per the AP. It wouldn’t take long for the effects of a rail strike to trickle through the economy. Many businesses only have a few days’ worth of raw materials and space for finished goods. Makers of food, fuel, cars, and chemicals would all feel the squeeze, as would their customers. That’s not to mention the commuters who would be left stranded because many passenger railroads use tracks owned by the freight railroads.

The stakes are so high for the economy that Congress is expected to intervene and impose contract terms on railroad workers. The last time US railroads went on strike was in 1992. That strike lasted two days before Congress intervened. An extended rail shutdown has not happened for a century, partly because a law passed in 1926 that governs rail negotiations made it much harder for workers to strike. Here are some of the expected impacts:

  • Food: It would take about a week for customers to notice shortages of things like cereal, peanut butter, and beer at the grocery store, said Tom Madrecki, vice president of supply chain for the Consumer Brands Association. About 30% of all packaged food in the US is moved by rail, he said. That percentage is much higher for denser, heavier items like cans of soup. Trucks would not be able to make up the difference.
  • Travel: Roughly half of all commuter rail systems rely at least in part on tracks that are owned by freight railroads, and nearly all of Amtrak’s long-distance trains run over the freight network.
  • $2B a day: Railroads haul about 40% of the nation’s freight each year. The railroads estimated that a rail strike would cost the economy $2 billion a day in a report issued earlier this fall. Another recent report put together by a chemical industry trade group projected that if a strike drags on for a month some 700,000 jobs would be lost as manufacturers who rely on railroads shut down, prices of nearly everything would increase even more, and the economy could be thrust into a recession.
  • Chemicals: Chemical manufacturers and refineries will be some of the first businesses affected, because railroads will stop shipping hazardous chemicals about a week before the strike deadline to ensure that no tank cars filled with dangerous liquids wind up stranded. One example: This means the chlorine that water treatment plants rely on to purify water, which they might only have about a week’s supply of on hand, would become hard to get.
  • Animals: Any disruption in rail service could threaten the health of chickens and pigs, which depend on trains to deliver their feed, and contribute to higher meat prices.
  • Auto sales: Drivers are already paying record prices and often waiting months for new vehicles because of the production problems in the auto industry related to the shortage of computer chips in recent years. That would only get worse if there is a rail strike, because roughly 75% of all new vehicles begin their journey from factories to dealerships on the railroad. Trains deliver some 2,000 carloads a day filled with vehicles.

Read the full story for more details.

I hope this gives my readers a little perspective….I can only hope.

In the final analysis this will just give more fodder for the GOP to use as a chip for the next election….and demonize Biden for causing it.

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

Pullman Strike

What does that mean?

126 years ago yesterday, 11May, workers of the Pullman Company went out on strike…….

It was a general strike against the railroads and was squashed by Pres. Cleveland and the use of federal troops…..

The Pullman Company built and leased passenger train cars, thousands of which were in operation around the United States by 1893. George Pullman also built a planned community or company town for his workers in Illinois, where workers enjoyed many amenities but were also financially dependent on the Pullman Company for their homes and utilities.

After a severe depression in 1893, wages fell about 25 percent for the Pullman workers while living costs remained the same. The workers then sought out union representation. Former railroad worker Eugene V. Debs and his American Railway Union, which had won a strike earlier in 1894, became involved in the Pullman situation. The May 11 “wildcat” strike wasn’t directly organized by the ARU, but Debs and the union quickly became involved in the strike as it escalated.

https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/on-this-day-the-pullman-strike-changes-labor-law

The Pullman Strike of 1894 was a milestone in American labor history, as the widespread strike by railroad workers brought business to a standstill across large parts of the nation until the federal government took unprecedented action to end the strike. President Grover Cleveland ordered federal troops to crush the strike, and dozens were killed in violent clashes in the streets of Chicago, where the strike was centered.

Key Takeaways: The Pullman Strike

  • Strike affected rail transportation nationwide, essentially bringing American business to a halt.
  • Workers resented not only cut in wages, but management’s intrusiveness into their personal lives.
  • The federal government became involved, with federal troops being sent to open railroads.
  • Massive strike changed how Americans viewed relationship of workers, management, and the federal government.

https://www.thoughtco.com/the-pullman-strike-of-1894-1773900

This strike helped launch the political career of Eugene Debs…..an eventual presidential candidate that opposed Wilson in 1912….

I know….who?

Outspoken leader of the labor movement, Eugene Debs opposed Woodrow Wilson as the Socialist Party candidate in the 1912 Presidential Election. Later, he would continue to rally against President Wilson and his decision to take American into war — and be jailed for it under the Espionage Act.

Debs was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1855, the son of poor Alsatian immigrants. Though his parents encouraged an intellectual spirit, Debs left high school after one year to become a locomotive paint-scraper. There, among the rough-and-tumble of railway men, Debs found his calling. From his membership in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen to his role co-founding the Industrial Workers of the World (the “wobblies”), Debs raised his voice in defense of the common man

https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/wilson-eugene-debs/

Labor has given the workers ALL the benefits they have used over the last century……and now is the time for labor unions to step up and be at the front of the struggle for the people of this country.

I Read, I Write, You Know

“lego ergo scribo”

 

Closing Thought–10Sep18

Strike!

Something that is not in the news much these days….a labor strike.  Seems that the industry that may benefit most from Our Dear Leader’s tariffs is the steel industry and they may go on strike……

US Steel workers are fired up and ready to strike if a new contract isn’t reached soon, the Times of Northwest Indiana reports. Workers for the Pittsburgh-based company voted nationwide this week to approve a strike if talks involving health care costs, retiree benefits, and wage increases don’t work out—at a time when their employer is apparently rolling in money. “Angry USW members conducted strike authorization meetings at each US Steel local over the past week,” the United Steelworkers said in a statement to workers, adding that there was “an overwhelming ‘yes’ vote in every local. Many locals reported that their results were unanimous.” A three-year US Steel contract for roughly 16,000 USW workers ran out Saturday.

Don Furko, president of USW Local 1557 in Clairton, Pa., says workers are pushing back at a time when President Trump’s policies are benefitting US Steel: “Between the tariffs and the tax break for corporations, they stand to make $2 billion this year,” he tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. US Steel says it’s offering workers profit-sharing of at least $6,000, a signing bonus of $4,000, wage increases starting at 4%, a 15-cent hourly increase to 401(k) retirement plans, and a one-time $5,000 health-care bonus. But Farko says workers still have too many out-of-pocket health care costs for family coverage. The pro-strike vote surprised steel-industry sources, says the Post-Gazette. There hasn’t been a US Steel work stoppage since the company locked out workers for six months in 1986.

As an old labor activist it is good to see the workers taking control once again.  No matter the outcome…..the workers are asserting themselves once again…..but the “Man” will make sure this goes nowhere.

Will the National Guard be called in to “break” any strike….

But the gauzy, halcyon portrait of the New Deal does not stand up to the reality of the Little Steel Strike of 1937 that is the subject of Ahmed White’s magisterial The Last Great Strike: Little Steel, the CIO, and the Struggle for Labor Rights in New Deal America that I discussed in a previous CounterPunch article focused on identity politics and the racism endured by Black steelworkers. For those new to the topic, “little” refers to the group of companies that blocked the CIO from organizing its workers, as opposed to US Steel, the “big” company that had they had come to terms with in March 1937. Little Steel consisted of Republic Steel Corporation, Bethlehem Steel Corporation, Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company and Inland Steel Company. Despite being called “little” in comparison to US Steel, each ranked among the hundred largest firms in America

https://www.counterpunch.org/2016/12/23/fdr-and-the-little-steel-strike/

Would Our Dear Leader call out the Guard to break a strike?

UAW Accepts A Strike Ban

It has come to light that the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler approved last month by the Bush administration with the support of the incoming Obama administration includes a stipulation that effectively bans strikes or work stoppages by autoworkers.

The clause, which was revealed in a Security and Exchange Commission filing by GM last week, coincides with government demands that the 139,000 workers at Detroit’s auto companies agree by February 17 to accept mass layoffs, plant closures and sweeping wage and benefit concessions.

According to the SEC filing, the Treasury Department could declare GM and Chrysler in default and revoke $17.4 billion in loans, throwing the automakers into bankruptcy, if “any labor union or collective bargaining unit shall engage in a strike or other work stoppage.”

The effect of this provision is to revoke the legal right to strike, an achievement won by the American working class in bitter struggles against “criminal conspiracy” laws used against striking workers in the 19th century. It was only with the 1935 passage, in the depths of the Great Depression, of the National Labor Relations Act that federal law recognized the right of workers to strike. This concession to the working class was not some freely given gift of the Roosevelt administration. It followed general strikes that erupted in 1934 in Toledo, Minneapolis and San Francisco. Without the strike weapon, workers are reduced to the status of industrial slaves, legally compelled to accept the most brutal conditions of exploitation without any recourse to collective resistance.

Several commentators have questioned the legality of the anti-strike provision in the auto bailout bill. Nevertheless, under the terms of the bailout, the strike ban remains in effect as long as the auto companies have outstanding loans from the government, setting the stage for contract negotiations in 2011 in which workers would not have the slightest leverage to reject demands for even more draconian givebacks.

And it begins!  The Battle Of The Collars.

Success Of Factory Sit-In

Do you remember the sit down strike at Republic Windows and Doors?  The workers were being screwed out of their benefits and the plant was closing with 3 days warning of the closing.  Then the workers decided that they would sit-in and demand their rights.

And to their surprise, their drastic action worked. Late Wednesday, two major banks agreed to lend the company enough money to give the workers what they asked for.

“In the environment of this economic crisis, we felt we were obligated to fight for our money,” Armando Robles, a maintenance worker and president of Local 1110 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, which represented the workers, said in Spanish.

The reverberations of the workers’ victory are likely to be felt for months as plants continue to close. Bob Bruno, director of the labor studies program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, predicted organized labor would be emboldened by the workers’ success. “If you combine some palpable street anger with organizational resources in a changing political mood,” he said, “you can begin to see more of these sort of riskier, militant adventures, and they’re more likely to succeed.”

Bank of America caved to advoid unwanted attention on their financial moves…they are doing their back street trading and getting lots of cash to do it…they wanted to avoid the press and its coverage…yes the workers won this one….but do not look for too many more wins…..the companies are thrilled that the Senate is helping them bust the unions.

Today In Labor History

10 November

Sit-down strike begins at Austin, Minn. Hormel plant – 1933

The ship Edmund Fitzgerald – the biggest carrier on the Great Lakes – and crew of 29 are lost in a storm on Lake Superior while carrying ore from Superior, Wisc. to Detroit. The cause of the sinking was never established – 1975

Tile, Marble, Terrazzo Finishers, Shop Workers & Granite Cutters International Union merges into United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners – 1988

http://www.biglabor.com

Today In Labor History

09 November

Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt unveils the Civil Works Administration, a partner to the Civilian Conservation Corps, to create construction jobs, mainly improving or constructing buildings and bridges – 1933

Committee for Industrial Organization founded by eight unions affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. The eight want more focus on organizing mass production industry workers – 1935

http://www.biglabor.com