Midwestern Marx Institute’s Endorsement of the Railroad Workers United Resolution in Support of Public OwnershipRead Now
The catastrophic train wreck in East Palestine, Ohio has received national attention. However, the disastrous damage the toxicity of the vinyl chloride has already produced on local’s health, pets, and environment – damages which can extend well over a 100 miles radius – have been a suppressed part of the coverage. This disaster and its effects, undermined by the media, the government, and Norfolk Southern, could have been prevented if the voices and demands of rail workers were heard and acted on. For years the workers at Railroad Workers United (RWU) have warned about the unsafe practices Class One carriers have proliferated in hopes of cutting production costs and thereby increasing their rate of profit. By using longer and heavier trains, an operating model known as “Precision Scheduled Railroading” (PSR), and continuing to petition the Federal Railway Administration for relief from historically necessary inspections, these companies continuously put the lives of workers, customers, and trackside communities at risk.
While rail companies and their shareholders rake in record profits, worker’s jobs are continuously cut and contracted out, leading to grueling schedules and worsening working conditions. Since 2019, twelve unions representing over 100 thousand workers have been fighting for a new contract, one which increases the quality-of-life provisions and overcomes the difficulties the companies’ production cuts have created. After three years of failed negotiations, the Biden administration – which claims to be the most pro-union ever – imposed on workers a contract they democratically voted against, and illegalized their ability to strike.
Railroad workers, whose hands create the infrastructure through which 61 tons of goods are shipped across the country, whose labor is the precondition for modern American life, have seen the fruits of their labor line the pockets of company owners and shareholders with billions of dollars. Meanwhile, this parasitical class of beings prevents workers from having the time off necessary to live decent lives and lobbies the government to the tune of tens of millions a year to represent their interest by enforcing their suppression and exploitation of workers.
The private ownership of rail – an industry so indispensable for society – makes profit, not public good, the sole purpose of its existence. With profit in command, disasters like that which occurred in East Palestine, Ohio will be commonplace, and worker’s rightful and democratic demands will continue to go unheard. Under the existing property relations in rail, expansion and development have become impossible – companies’ profit-oriented management has reached a point where it has become an obstacle in the way of progress.
The solution to hazardous railroad practices, worsening working conditions, and stifled development can be obtained only insofar as the ownership of rail is taken out of private hands which operate for the sake of profits for a few wealthy individuals, and is placed under public ownership and control. The nationalization of rail will bring forth a much-needed rejuvenation in the industry and will allow – for the first time since its temporary nationalization during WWI – for railroads to serve the American people, not employers and shareholders. The Midwestern Marx Institute, therefore, wholeheartedly endorses RWU’s resolution in support of the public ownership and control of rail.
Midwestern Marx Institute for Marxist Theory and Political Analysis
An Open Letter to All Unions, Locals, Lodges, Divisions, Worker Organizations, Environmental Groups, Rail Advocates, Transportation Justice Folks & Others
Dear Friends and Fellow Workers:
In face of the degeneration of the rail system in the last decade, and after more than a decade of discussion and debate on the question, Railroad Workers United (RWU) has taken a position in support of public ownership of the rail system in North America. We ask you to consider doing the same, and announce your organization’s support for rail public ownership.
While the rail industry has been incapable of expansion in the last generation and has become more and more fixated on the Operating Ratio to the detriment of all other metrics of success, Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR) has escalated this irresponsible trajectory to the detriment of shippers, passengers, commuters, trackside communities, and workers. On-time performance is suffering, and shipper complaints are at all-time highs. Passenger trains are chronically late, commuter services are threatened, and the rail industry is hostile to practically any passenger train expansion. The workforce has been decimated, as jobs have been eliminated, consolidated, and contracted out, ushering in a new previously unheard-of era where workers can neither be recruited nor retained. Locomotive, rail car, and infrastructure maintenance has been cut back. Health and safety has been put at risk. Morale is at an all-time low. The debacle in national contract bargaining last Fall saw the carriers – after decades of record profits and record low Operating Ratios – refusing to make even the slightest concessions to the workers who have made them their riches.
Since the North American private rail industry has shown itself incapable of doing the job, it is time for this invaluable transportation infrastructure – like the other transport modes – to be brought under public ownership. During WWI, the railroads in the U.S. were in fact temporarily placed under public ownership and control. All rail workers of all crafts and unions supported (unsuccessfully) keeping them in public hands once the war ended, and voted overwhelmingly to keep them in public hands. Perhaps it is time once again to put an end to the profiteering, pillaging, and irresponsibility of the Class One carriers. Railroad workers are in a historic position to take the lead and push for a new fresh beginning for a vibrant and expanding, innovative and creative national rail industry to safely, efficiently, and properly handle the nation’s freight and passengers.
Please join us in this historic endeavor. See the adjoining RWU Resolution in Support of Public Ownership of the Railroads, along with a sample Statements from the United Electrical (UE) and the Northern Nevada Central Labor Council. If your organization would like to take a stand for public ownership of the nation’s rail system, please click on the link below, fill out the form and email it in to RWU. We will add your organization to the list! Finally, please forward to others who may be interested in doing the same. Thank you!
The RWU Committee on Public Ownership