Masses of rail workers across the country are rallying Tuesday in efforts to draw the public attention toward their demands, including giving rail workers paid sick days, after President Joe Biden signed legislation imposing a labor deal on workers.
Rallies are taking place in Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C.
“We demand that Biden sign an Executive Order that he apparently has the capacity to do and allow for 7 days sick time for RR workers like other Government contractors. Done, end of story,” a spokesperson for the Railroad Workers United labor caucus said in a statement to The New Republic. “Why not? And if he refuses, he owes us an explanation for sure.”
Workers are also asking for two-person crews on all trains and eliminating what’s known as “precision-scheduled railroading.”
Precision-scheduled railroading, or, as workers sometimes dub it, “positive shareholder reaction,” manages freight movement by the individual car level, as opposed to the whole train—ensuring train cars are constantly on the move. In practice, this has cut jobs, consolidated dispatch centers, and made trains less safe, as fewer workers have less time to conduct checks on even more train cars.
The rallies come after 72 members of Congress, led by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representatives Jamaal Bowman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rashida Tlaib, published a letter outlining how Biden could “guarantee rail workers the seven sick days that they desperately need through executive action.”
The letter followed Biden’s decision to impose a labor contract on workers, in an ostensible effort to avoid a national rail strike.
Despite Biden’s cave to railroad companies, these 72 members of Congress are not relenting.
“We are going to continue to fight. We are going to continue to organize. And we’re going to continue to make sure that labor—the workers who create the wealth for these companies—get their fair share of that wealth,” Bowman bellowed at the Washington, D.C., rally.
“We have corporations making record profits,” Bowman continued. “We allow them as many stock buybacks as they want. But we continue to give workers and labor the short end of the stick.… That’s bullshit.”