the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
Dec 11, 2022
Joe Biden and the Democrats and Republicans in Congress imposed a contract settlement on the freight railroad workers to stop a possible strike. Workers in four unions, representing a majority of the railroad workers, had voted down a contract that was the result of government-imposed arbitration.
In the past few years, the railroad companies have eliminated thousands of jobs, 30% of their workforce, and forced the remaining workers to work insane work schedules, always on call. Cutting jobs brought in huge profits for the railroad companies -- over seven billion dollars in just the last three months.
These job cuts have enriched the wealthy company stockholders, who have received 196 billion dollars in dividends and stock buybacks over the past decade. But these same job cuts have meant dangerous working conditions for the short-staffed railroad workers and for the trains they run.
Because there weren't enough workers left, the railroad bosses refused to give any paid sick time and the railroad workers were often forced to work while ill, endangering their own health. In contract negotiations, the railroad union leaders had asked for 15 paid sick days. The contract arbitration imposed by Biden and Congress gave the workers one paid sick day and a couple of unpaid days. Many railroad workers said that this outrageous settlement was the reason they voted against the contract in the first place!
As this editorial was written, it was not clear how the railroad workers will respond to having the contract forced on them. What is clear, however, is where Biden, the Democrats and the Republicans all stand.
Biden claims to be pro-labor. Some Democrats and Republicans in Congress say they take the side of the working class. But when push comes to shove, these politicians, who represent the government state apparatus, did what they always do -- they stand on the side of the railroad companies, on the side of the banks, hedge funds and other stockholders, on the side of the whole capitalist class. They stand against the railroad workers -- and against the whole working class, who all face the same type of attacks faced by the railroad workers.
This is the reality that the working class always faces. In this society divided into classes, the politicians of both major parties serve the interests of the ruling class -- the capitalist class. The politicians pass laws to serve the interests of the capitalists, like the laws they used against the railroad workers. And if workers defy these laws, the capitalists have the power of the state apparatus -- the courts and the police -- to use against the working class.
Today the whole working class is under attack by this capitalist class. All workers are facing similar problems to what the railroad workers face. Most workers are paid wages that are lower than the railroad workers, wages that don't keep up with inflation. Millions of jobs have been cut and the remaining workers are overworked, risking our health.
Just like the railroad workers, the rest of the working class can't depend on the politicians or the laws to solve the problems for us.
But the working class has its own power to use -- when it is ready to use it. That power is all our forces together. That power is that we make everything run -- and we can make everything stop.
The railroad workers have a certain power because of the role they play in the economy. That's why the politicians of both parties were so quick to come together, trying to stop a strike. But the whole working class together has an even greater power.
The working class has used that power in the past, many times defying the politicians and the laws when they are ordered not to strike, ordered to keep working. And in the future that same power could be used, not only to strike to defend our interests, but to get rid of a system that is set up against us and to build a society that the working class runs themselves.