Reply to: Re: Reply to: Re: US Rail Cont

Jon Flanders 72763.2240 at
Thu May 16 19:02:12 MDT 1996

 >> I guess the question is what kind of proposals do you make to workers
 in order to stengthen your position against the boss during the rail
negoitations? Do you increase the filing of grievances? Do you as an
individual union member seek to work with others in the Local or International
to raise tactics and strategies that would push the class forward? Do you seek
to become the representatives of workers in the
 shops as a Committeeman or Steward? Do you seek to build networks or
 caususes with other rank and file members and union officials like we
 did in the UTU Right to Vote Committee in 1969? <<David Walters

 Jon Flanders:

  I don't see any clear path at the moment. Considering that the UTU agreement
has been forced on the membership; that the UTU leadership was for this
agreement, and will not support protest against it, then getting something
going a month before the other contracts expire is pretty difficult. In the
long run of course, this imposition may well provoke an explosion in the

  In 1991 it was simpler. Almost all the contracts expired at one time, and
organized actions were possible. I was involved in the organizing of a large
mass picket before the strike here.

  You also have to remember the differences between the craft unions involved
and the layers of workers they represent.

  The shopcrafts like the machinists and electricians are feeling the pinch of
stagnating wages and the contracting out of work. Money is more an issue for
us than the clerks, who fear above all the computer driven joblessness that is
decimating them.

  The operating crafts, conductors and engineers, make better money, but are
being worked to death with 60 hour weeks the norm. Fatigue and safety concerns
are high on their list.

  The track workers face months away from home, low wages and the loss of work
to line sales.

  One hundred years after Debs tried to organize an industrial railroad union,
we still have some 17 crafts on railroad property today. Combine this with the
varigation of interests I describe above, always being stirred by the
companies and the union officials, and you have a tangle that would rival the
Gordian knot.

  All the tactics you describe seem secondary to me to forging a broad
opposition to the government-management stranglehold that tie down possibly
the most powerful group of workers in the country.

  Basically what is needed is a fight for worker's democratic rights, to vote
on contracts and to organize in a united way across craft lines. The
government interference of by way of the RLA should be ended. Doing this won't
be easy, since right off the bat the union officials will smell a rat and come
down like a ton of bricks on anything that might eliminate their comfortable

  I sense lately, as C day draws near, a greater openess to discussing these
things. Discontent is growing. The bankruptcy of the old ways becomes clearer.

 Best, Jon Flanders

  E-mail from: Jonathan E. Flanders, 16-May-1996

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