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Roofers Local 36 Statement Condemning Government Subversion of Union Democracy

AFL-CIO president Elizabeth Shuler has revealed her betrayal of the U.S. labor movement following president Biden’s interference in railway workers’ contract negotiations. After Biden, House Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats orchestrated legislative maneuvers to impose a contract, which the railway unions had rejected, Shuler wrote, “I commend and thank rail workers and their unions” for efforts “to reach a contract.”

The “workers and their unions” in fact never did “reach a contract.” Shuler is openly covering for the Democratic Party’s attack on the workers and their unions. The contract was forced on them by the government, over and outside of the negotiations process. After 3 years of negotiations, unions representing 115,000 nationwide railway workers had threatened to exercise their right to withhold their labor, to strike.

Negotiations hit impasse in July, 2022, and a strike was threatened. Biden announced an Executive Order to impose a 60 day “cooling off” period, and established a “President Emergency Board” to “investigate the dispute” and “deliver a report with recommendations on how it should be resolved.”

In September, 2022, president Biden imposed a “tentative agreement” to avoid a rail strike ahead of the November midterm elections. The tentative agreement was then voted down by 4 unions representing the majority of railway workers, and a strike date was set for December 9.

November 29, 2022, Biden publicly called for Congress, controlled by Democrats, to impose the contract, against the workers’ vote. House Speaker Pelosi called the vote November 30, which passed with 203 Democrats in favor and 8 Democrats opposing.

Democratic Party leaders, with near-unanimous collaboration of the “Progressive Caucus,” intentionally carved out the primary demand of the railway workers, paid sick leave, into separate legislation, with the knowledge that this demand would fail in the Senate, effectively forcing onto the workers the very contract they had rejected, in favor of the railway owners.

AFL-CIO president Shuler was silent throughout these government manipulations, providing no support for the workers and their unions. Shuler stood by and permitted the workers to be railroaded, with no criticism whatsoever of the open attacks by the Democratic Party, to the benefit of the railway monopolies.

“BNSF and Union Pacific, the two largest railroad corporations in North America, reported record profits in 2021. BNSF is owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate. U.S. railroads have paid out $196bn in stock buybacks and dividends to shareholders since 2010.

“But workers argue the industry is in crisis. Between November 2018 and December 2020, the railroad industry lost 40,000 jobs in the U.S., according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The U.S. railroad industry’s workforce dropped from more than 1 million workers in the 1950s to fewer than 150,000 in 2022.”

Federal courts had blocked railway workers from striking in January, 2022, and again in February, after the monopolies imposed a draconian work schedule called Hi-Viz, that essentially has workers on call 24 hours a day all but 1 day per month. Workers must report within 2 hours once called to work or face escalating discipline to suspension and termination.

The rail monopolies, though making record profits, have mandated this attendance policy while they have cut the workforce by 30% in 6 years. This is the primary feature of monopoly capitalism, to maximize exploitation of the worker in order to maximize extraction of surplus value, or profit.

The Democratic Party, regardless its posturing, serves monopoly capital, against the workers. Liz Shuler, in her first major labor crisis as AFL-CIO president, reveals herself as its handmaiden.

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