WESTERN MASS LABOR FEDERATION AFL-CIO ANNOUNCES RESOLUTION SUPPORTING RAIL WORKERS AND DEFENDING THE RIGHT TO STRIKE
The Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation voted unanimously at their January
membership meeting last night to condemn in the strongest possible terms the Biden
Administration’s conduct of December 2, 2022. In the resolution, the WMALF states that the
administration violated fundamental workers’ rights by forcing an agreement on rail workers that interfered with their right to strike and failed to insure the basic workplace protection of paid sick leave time for employees.
Furthermore, the WMALF made clear its unequivocal commitment to the inalienable right of
working people to withhold their labor in the form of a strike: “The right to strike is a fundamental human right. Any legislation that denies workers’ right to strike, whether the bill that Biden signed on December 2, 2022, the Railway Labor Act of 1926, or Section 9A(a) of the Massachusetts Public Employee Collective Bargaining Law – serves the interests of the bosses over the interests of the working class and should be deemed illegitimate.”
“When the government intervenes in union disputes on the side of the billionaire owners, workers across the country take notice, and will not forget,” said Ian Rhodewalt, one of the drafters of the resolution. “The most ‘pro-union’ president since FDR has shown his true colors, and where his allegiances lie."
The resolution is shared below.
A Law That Represses Workers’ Rights Is Illegitimate:
The Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation Condemns the Biden Administration’s Strike-Breaking against Rail Workers
The Western Massachusetts Area Labor Federation stands in support of our fellow workers in the rail industry, who are still denied basic benefits such as reasonable schedules and paid sick days. In 2023, we can and must ensure that all workers have access to those rights.
We condemn in the strongest possible terms President Biden’s strike-breaking of U.S. railroad unions and the strike-breaking legislation passed by a bipartisan majority of Congress. A classic labor song asks, “Which Side Are You On?” President Biden and both political parties have chosen the side of the billionaires over working people. This anti-worker decision will enter history alongside Ronald Reagan’s breaking of the air traffic controllers’ union in 1981 and other notorious government interventions on behalf of bosses.
Workers’ leverage comes from the power to withhold our labor in the form of a strike. The right to strike is a fundamental human right. Any legislation that denies workers’ right to strike – whether the bill that Biden signed on December 2, the Railway Labor Act of 1926, or Section 9A(a) of the Massachusetts Public Employee Collective Bargaining Law – serves the interests of the bosses over the interests of the working class and should be deemed illegitimate.
In preemptively denying railroad unions’ right to strike, President Biden and Congress imposed a contract that unions representing 55% of railroad workers had voted to reject. Despite his talk of protecting democracy and being pro-labor, Biden has overruled the democratic vote of the railroad workers and sided with the billionaire railroad company owners who make lavish profits while denying paid sick days to the workers responsible for those profits. In the region covered by our labor federation, Senator Elizabeth Warren was the only politician to vote against the legislation.
This action sets a dangerous precedent for the entire working class. Labor must respond accordingly.
Many unions invest more time and money in lobbying and supporting Democratic candidates than in organizing rank-and-file workers to take collective action in their workplaces. That strategy has delivered dismal results, as 4 decades of continuous corporate assaults on the working class have only further weakened unions.
Some workers have recently rediscovered their power. From the coal miners of Brookwood, Alabama who have been on strike since April 2021, to the historic strike in the University of California system in late 2022, to recent successful strikes by educators in Malden, Haverhill, and other Massachusetts school districts, more workers are building their collective power and taking matters into their own hands.
Historically the greatest advances in working-class rights, from unionization to the right to strike itself, have come on the heels of disruptive worker action not sanctioned by politicians and capitalists. A law that represses the fundamental rights of workers, a law written by and for the bosses, is not a law worth respecting.
We call on organized labor at all levels – union locals and internationals, central labor councils, area labor federations, state and national offices of the AFL-CIO, and other working-class organizations such as workers’ centers – to take forceful action in response to the federal government’s suppression of railroad workers’ rights. Such action might include the following:
- Standing in solidarity, via our voices and our union resources, with the railroad workers’ unions and with the fundamental principles underlying their struggle, including the right to paid sick time and reasonable work schedules
- Organizing our members to resolve problems by taking collective action in their workplaces
- Buildingdemocraticstewards’councilsandotherinternalstructuresdirectlyresponsiveto rank-and-file demands and that build rank and file engagement
- Deepen labors commitment to hold elected officials accountable to representing the interests of working people. This could include withholding donations and labor from the election campaigns of politicians who sided with railroad company owners over railroad workers, and redirecting that money and energy into strike funds and rank-and-file organizing
We will continue to stand in solidarity with the railroad unions and their demands.