Filed under: Editorials, Labor, US
Editorial from David Van Deusen, President of the Vermont AFL-CIO. See our interview with David on our podcast, here.
Rail unions went into this bargaining season with not a single day of paid sick leave in their contract. Achieving paid sick leave was the top priority of union members. And today, because of an act of Congress and because of the latest Democratic Party betrayal, (the latest in a long line of betrayals), they still have no sick leave.
Every member of the working-class in the US should be livid right now. Biden, the Democratic Party leadership in the House and Senate, and the vast majority of politicians in DC just fucked over rail workers and sided with the billionaire bosses, yet again. The rail corporations, after years of record profits, shall not be required to pay workers if they have to miss a day of work due to illness. This is bullshit.
No matter how the Democratic Party apologists try to spin it, Congress, who had the power to grant unionized rail workers paid sick leave, willfully chose to not do so, and then imposed a contract which was voted DOWN by the rank and file of four unions representing a majority of rail workers in this country. The Democrats in the House chose to send TWO bills to the Senate, (instead of tying the sick leave to the tentative agreement), and it was the Democrats again in the Senate who REFUSED to abolish the filibuster (which takes a simple majority) and instead agreed to a 60 vote threshold to pass the sick leave bill. And even after the sick leave bill failed to get 60 votes, the great majority Democrats still voted to impose the TA. And in so doing, Congress also effectively outlawed strike activity in the rail sector for this contract cycle. This betrayal of labor falls on the Democrats.
This is a huge win for the billionaire railroad owners, CEOs, investors, and the capitalist ruling-class. And given that the two major political parties on the national stage are both firmly supported by the elite (and side with the elite at every crucial juncture), this was also a predictable outcome from the start, (as was the failure of the Democrats to pass the Pro-Act last year). As sad and sickening as this may be, it is a truth we must reckon with.
Press Release from RWU:
“We suffered a one-two punch at the hands of, first, the Democratic Party; the second served up by the Republicans.”https://t.co/V1fsf3lv8W
— Railroad Workers United ✊ (@railroadworkers) December 2, 2022
The national Democratic Party is NOT the friend of Labor. They are a capitalist party organized to represent the interests of the bosses. And even while they lack degrees of evil exhibited by the increasingly fascist Republican Party, we must not be so confused as to think of them as allies. They, like the Republicans, are a force we must struggle against (not within). If our collective aspirations as a labor movement is to see an empowerment of working people, these are realities we must come to grips with.
So long as the two major national parties are the Democrats (big-capitalists) and the Republicans (capitalists with a fascist trajectory), we would be wise to soberly understand that the true power of workers will never be realized through supporting the better of two bad candidates in an election or spending tens of millions of dollars to prop up a party which does not support us.
No, my friends, our true power can only be found in our labor, through our solidarity, in the factories, on the job sites, in our shops, in our communities, and by way of those actions we collectively choose to take outside bounds of the preferred limits of engagement set forth by the rigged system created by our class enemies. President Joe Biden is NOT pro-worker (even if he displays less visceral hatred of us than did Donald Trump), Congress is not pro-worker, and neither party will do the right thing unless and until they fear us.
So, let us channel our anger and put our focus and attention towards the hard task of organizing, let us be unafraid to call out and name our enemies, and let us build our movement into a force which puts the fear of god into the hearts of those who would side with billionaires and millionaires over the people. And should rail workers choose to withhold their labor and strike, (act of Congress be damned), let us stand side by side with them, come what may, until victory, unbowed!
photo: Joshua Sukoff via Unsplash