Jun 23, 2014
More than 400 engineers and electrical workers went on strike against Philadelphia’s commuter rail system, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), on Saturday, June 14. President Obama signed an executive order that evening. By Sunday the trains were running again.
Vice president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Stephen Bruno told reporters “We will comply fully with the law. . . . Our members will go back to work.”
Workers do not have to “comply with the law” - others have shown that.
In 1978, coal miners led a 110-day nation-wide strike for the right to strike. President Jimmy Carter invoked the national emergency provision of the Taft-Hartley Act. A federal court issued a temporary injunction ordering miners back to work. The miners did NOT go back to work. They continued their strike and backed the federal government off. The federal judge who ordered the injunction in the first place vacated his order, saying: “Anyway, the miners don’t care what I do.”
The SEPTA strike was local, not national, like the coal strike of ‘78. So if the President of the United States gets involved it means something. Isn’t it obvious? He and the capitalists he represents must fear any struggle that might spread, that might engage other workers and show those workers how much power they have. A rail strike can do that more easily than other strikes because when you shut down rail, it shuts down other things right away.
The union leaders had a choice: make a fight or don’t make a fight. Workers still have the choice. They don’t have to obey the government, nor their union leaders.