December 5, 2007: Rail labor activists from across North America are coming together to form a new cross-craft inter-union caucus that includes all rail workers in North America—Railroad Workers United.
by Ron Kaminkow, BLET Division 51
Amtrak, Reno., Nev.
“We have been divided—craft against craft, union against union, terminal against terminal—for too long,” says Joe Wyman, UTU trainman in Tucson, Ariz. “We will be stronger by including all railroaders in North America.”
The RWU will be a membership organization. Membership is open to all members of any railroad union, including the BLET and the BMWED, rail crafts that have joined the Teamsters.
The new group got its start thanks to Railroad Operating Crafts United (ROCU), a group founded in 2005 to end the warfare between the BLET and the UTU.
“Rather than continue to beat our heads against the wall in face of the determination of the officials of the BLET and the UTU to remain separate and at war with each other, we decided to put our energy into building an organization that includes all rail labor,” says Ed Michael, an engineer in BLET Div. 724.
“We are not creating another rail union,” explains Jon Flanders, a Machinist in Selkirk, N.Y. “Instead, we are creating an industry-wide caucus where we can all come together to help each other build the solidarity, support, democracy and strength that is missing in our individual craft unions.”
The new group will work to build solidarity among all railroad workers, including:
- Support movements for democracy within the rail unions;
- Build unity at the next round of bargaining;
- Support candidates who actively support RWU goals for leadership positions in the various unions;
- Support mergers between rail unions where they make sense;
- Build local chapters in terminals to recruit members and build solidarity;
- Get behind national legislative campaigns that would benefit rail workers and facilitate union organizing.
RWU has drawn up a “Statement of Principles” to act as a guide to its work, which include unity of all railroad crafts, an end to inter-union conflict, rank-and-file democracy, and coordinated bargaining.
The founding convention of RWU is scheduled to take place Friday, April 11, 2008, at the Labor Notes Conference in Detroit that weekend.
For more information, including a copy of the RWU Statement of Principles, call RWU at 206-984-3051, or go to www.railroadworkersunited.org.