Strike on the Rails


Rail workers threaten to go on strike on Sept. 29. They are demanding better working conditions.

Twelve rail unions in the US, representing 115,000 workers, have threatened to go on strike by Nov. 19, if rail companies do not meet their demands for better conditions. The federal government has already made their stance clear as they are siding against the workers interest and more for a “middle ground” trying to mediate a negotiation and compromise between the workers and rail companies. Many of these politicians pushing for this scant compromise are also funded by corporations who rely on rail for supplies. While the administration has promised to do more for unions in the past, it seems that they have, at this moment, given more slack to corporations with proposals to have a vote in congress to block the possibility of a strike completely.

The rail workers are under brutal conditions; they have no leave, paid or unpaid, and cannot attend to basic necessities, such as going to a doctor’s appointments, without being penalized. One man who was martyred by this “point based attendance policy” was Aaron Hiles, who felt ill, and was forced to delay a doctors appointment because he was called into work. If he refused he would’ve been penalized and possibly lose his job. He later died of a heart attack while on the job. Hiles is not the exception; thousands upon thousands of workers labor under these brutal conditions. Often times, these railroad workers have little time for family or leisure, staying in motels on days off because their homes are too far away to return to. They are penalized if they don’t make it to work in a certain standard amount of time, no matter how far away they live from the nearest train station. Most of these workers live in rural areas with bad cell service and yet are penalized if they miss a call, encouraging them to stay on the job as long as possible. This creates a loophole to get around a labor law, limiting how long a company can force their employees to work. This untenable situation is made worse by the fact a high number of these workers have conditions such as sleep apnea, insomnia and diabetes, often worsened by these work policies. The current compromises made from negotiations overseen by the government is infuriatingly meager, with most workers rejecting it.

This is a major step in workers rights; unionization has been higher in recent times than it has been in decades, and this is the largest union action in recent memory. If a strike does happen, it will disrupt the countries supply chain, but it’s important for the American people to keep in mind that any inconvenience they may experience is not the fault of the worker, who fights for their rights. It is the companies, and those in Washington, refusing to give basic human dignity to the most important contributors to society who have gone unappreciated for far too long. Now is not the time to complain, now is the time for solidarity, support the unions, make posts about it on social media, tell friends, tell family, the basic liberties of thousands are at stake.