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RWU Calls on Rail Craft Union Officials to Pledge Unity

Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we stand at a crossroads. The rail labor movement faces unprecedented challenges, and our strength, our very survival, hinges on one critical principle: unity. Eugene V. Debs, the titan of labor, once proclaimed, “Unite, all railway workers, for real solidarity and collective action.” His call resonates now, louder and clearer than ever before.

Recent conflicts between the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers—Transportation Division (SMART-TD) have cast a shadow over our movement. The events at Norfolk Southern (NS) and the ensuing discord have only served to highlight how internal strife weakens us. These are not mere disagreements; they are fractures that threaten to dismantle everything we have fought for.

Historically, craft unions have been plagued by battles over jurisdiction and representation. These battles have allowed rail companies to exploit our divisions, leading to detrimental practices such as Remote-Controlled Operations (RCOs) and single-person operations. These practices compromise our safety and working conditions, proving that fighting for individual gains at the expense of collective strength only sets us back. The craft union strategy has failed to prevent a North American railroad system dominated by Precision Scheduled Railroading, the loss of tens of thousands of railroad jobs in the last decade, and a decline in union density on the railroads to nearly 50%.

As we approach the crucial period of national bargaining with the NCCC carriers, we must recognize that the companies are poised to exploit any division among us. The current leadership’s tactics are dangerous and counterproductive. Now is not the time for divisive maneuvers but for solidarity. Unity is not just an ideal; it is an urgent necessity. We must prioritize the collective good over territorial gains, standing together as one formidable force.

We must refrain from finger-pointing at one another for past sins. No rail craft union is pure; all have failed rail workers in the past, broken ranks, curried favor with the rail carriers, sold out, and back-stabbed one another—not just in recent decades—but dating back to the 1880s when craft unions actually scabbed on one another and actively broke each other’s strikes. While this sordid record is inexcusable, it has been the nature of the divisive craft union system. RWU has been highly critical of this backward, archaic form of trade unionism since our founding and will continue to hold rail craft union officials accountable for their failures to stand united with the other rail crafts and unions. We know that we live and die by the watchword, “An injury to one is an injury to all!” United we stand, divided we fall.

Railroad Workers United (RWU) calls for a renewed focus on unity. We must honor the legacy of those who fought before us by coming together to build a united front. History has shown that when we unite, we are unstoppable. Now is the time to set aside our differences and focus on our common goal: securing better conditions for all rail workers.

Wecontinue to campaign for a new approach for contract negotiations, one based on real unity of all unions and crafts where no union settles until all unions have a satisfactory agreement, open negotiations with clear communication to the rank and file about progress, and mobilization of the membership for actions to build up a credible strike threat.

RWU is calling for and willing to help organize a conference of all members of rail labor committed to discussing, debating, and developing a strategy for an aggressive, united contract campaign going forward into the upcoming round of national handling in freight service.

In solidarity,
Railroad Workers United

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