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Welcome to Railroad Workers United

Railroad Workers United is an inter-union, cross-craft solidarity "caucus" of railroad workers, and their supporters, from all crafts, all carriers, and all unions across North America. We urge union railroaders to continue being active in their craft union AND to join RWU in building solidarity and strength among all rail workers. We work with union rank & file railroad workers, but we welcome yet-to-be organized rail workers as well. In addition, we actively work with other labor and community organizations on issues of mutual concern. We do not accept managers or those who oppose our principles.

A Place for All North American Rail Workers

North American railroad workers are divided into different unions based on their craft of work and on some short lines, workers are not unionized at all. In the US alone there are thirteen unions representing railroad workers with several more unions in Canada. What we need is solidarity, unity and democracyREAD MORE

RWU Announces Petition for Rail Union Unity

For too long, rail labor has been fragmented and divided. Today, in the face of "Precision Scheduled Railroading", mass layoffs and furloughs, carrier threats to run trains with a single crew member, attacks on health care and vital work rules, it is imperative that ALL rail crafts and ALL rail unions stand together in bargaining. Let your voice be heard and sign the petition!!

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Oppose “Precision Scheduled Railroading”

Precision Scheduled Railroading is the darling of the rail industry at the moment, the latest scam to get you - the railroad workers - to work longer hours for less compensation under more difficult, arduous and dangerous working conditions. And as recent experiences show, there is nothing “precision” or “scheduled” about it. Just ask the shippers on the CSX system, the workers on the Canadian Pacific, or any Amtrak passenger. Or you can even ask Matt Rose, CEO of the BNSF!

PSR is a farce, a scheme hatched in corporate offices to make stockholders rich at the expense of the rest of us. The obsession with lowering the Operating Ratio and with the next quarter’s profit earnings are detrimental to the long term health, vitality, and safety of the railroads of North America. It is time for railroad workers and our unions to stand up and fight back, and to call out this farce for what it is: BULLSHIT!

“The Lac-Megantic Rail Disaster: Public Betrayal, Justice Denied”

Lac-Mégantic was not a rare random occurrence, impossible to foresee. On the contrary, it was the culmination of a series of events, policies, decisions, which as this new book details, over time saw an enormous build-up in the risk of catastrophe, to the point where it became a matter of Russian roulette - not if, but when.

This new book traces the trajectory of deregulation - accelerated by privatization and fiscal austerity - beginning with the Mulroney government, continuing with the Chretien-Martin government, and culminating with the Harper Conservatives.

It chronicles the measures, which systematically removed safety protections - producing a weakened and compliant regulator captured by a powerful industry - which subordinated government’s foremost obligation to protect its citizens, the citizens of Lac-Mégantic, to the private interests of corporations. Public betrayal.

The book recounts the story of US railway hard-liner Hunter Harrison who, as head of CN and later CP, transformed the Canadian railway landscape; and with CP became a central player in the highly profitable but increasingly risky transportation of Bakken crude and Alberta bitumen.

It shows how, despite critical assessments of Transport Canada’s deeply flawed rail safety regime, and warnings from inside the department, senior officials and their political masters downplayed the growing dangers in the rush to get oil to coastal refineries like Irving. The railways, averse to limitations on their lucrative new revenue stream, pressured government to block or delay regulations to help cope with the new reality.

The book describes how CP subcontractor, Montréal Maine and Atlantic Railway, headed by another US railroader Ed Burkhardt, a company with an appalling safety record and a culture of negligence—was able to gain permission from Transport Canada to operate its oil trains, which ran through Lac-Mégantic, with a single crew member. It probes the decision-making dynamics within Transport Canada that led to this approval, and the abnegation of ministerial responsibility. It reveals how the single person crew decision was covered up as a cause of the disaster up by the politically compromised final Transportation Safety Board report - overriding the findings of the investigation team.

It is also the story of lives, which were forever changed by the tragedy, subsequent tragedies endured by many, and the courageous struggle of those who have fought against despair and for safety and justice for their community. Only three front-line workers were put on trial for criminal negligence. They were acquitted. : No decision-makers within the industry, the company and the government were held to account. Virtually all criminal and civil actions have been settled behind closed doors except the criminal trialwhere the only people who testified were low-level company and government employees.

No company executives or its owner, no senior government officials, no political or industry leaders - were compelled to testify under oathAs a vehicle to uncover the truth and hold those responsible to account, the legal system failed.  A public inquiry is  the only remaining vehicle capable of  getting at the truth and bringing a measure of justice.

Finally, the Harper and Trudeau government’s failure to address fundamental safety risks that still exist, leave open the door for history to repeat itself at a time when oil-by-rail traffic is reaching record levels.

 Bruce Campbell is a former Executive Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. He is the author of three major reports on the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster. For this work, he was awarded a Law Foundation of Ontario Community Leadership in Justice Fellowship and spent 2016 as a visiting professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. Bruce Campbell  is currently adjunct professor, York University, Faculty of Environmental Studies; and Senior Fellow, Ryerson University, Centre for Free Expression.  

A cautionary tale for oil-by-rail: the Lac-Mégantic disaster five years later

Bruce Campbell discusses new book on Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

Bruce Campbell interview on the TV Show “The Zero Hour”

Read Advance Praise for Bruce Campbell’s Book

Two-person Crew Legislation Gains Momentum

The prospects for two-person train crew legislation at the state level had been very encouraging earlier this spring (2019). With the rail unions of the operating crafts working together on this important issue, legislation was adopted in both Colorado and Nevada. and appeared promising in a dozen others. There are now six states with legislation or regulation that requires trains that operate within the state to have a minimum of a 2-person crew: Wisconsin, California, West Virginia, and Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

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However, on May 23rd, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) claimed “preemption”, claiming there were no safety benefits to the two-person crew, and claimed that any and all of these state laws were null and void as a result. This took the wind out of the sails of the rail unions’ efforts, and has rendered the pending legislation potentially dead-on-arrival in various states across the country. States where a two-person crew bill has been introduced included: Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Indiana, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Utah, Idaho and Nevada (12).  Committee Hearings had been scheduled on pending legislation in Washington, Oregon, Nebraska, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Georgia and Maryland (8). All told, legislation has been adopted, been introduced, or is advancing in fully one half of the states of the union. So the FRA’s actions represents a severe setback to the movement.

However, the good news is that the Safe Freight Act at the national level - backed fully by both unions of the operating crafts - now has 100 co-sponsors and has been introduced in the Senate as well. While it stands a chance of passage in the House, adoption in the Senate appears unlikely at this time. Even if adopted by both chambers, it seems likely that a Presidential veto would be inevitable. Nevertheless, momentum towards eventual passage appears to be building.

On the contract front, the rail carriers will no doubt attempt to bargain a reduction in train crew size in the coming year or so. Should the Senate and the White House fall to control of the Democrats in 2020, the carriers might just see their dreams of single employee crews stymied. We expect a full court press in bargaining by the Class l carriers to achieve single employee train crew operations, whether in national handling or in “on-property” agreements in the next 18 months or so. If the resolve of the workers on both the BNSF and the W&LE are anything to go by, the rail carriers will certainly have a fight on their hands.

Rail Labor Unity Campaign Takes Off!

Since our Founding Convention, RWU has supported Coordinated Bargaining between all the rail unions, and has firmly stood up in favor of a single bargaining coalition of all rail labor. See Founding Convention Resolution HERE.

In recent months, more and more rank & file railroaders have come to see the wisdom of this position and are pressuring their leadership to move in this direction. During the latest bargaining  round, the All Rail Crafts Coalition (ARCC) took hold at a number of major terminals across the United States, and sustainable chapters are taking root.

All railroad workers are urged to bring the issue to your local union for debate and discussion. Please consider introducing a Resolution of Support for Rail Union Unity. And if your local adopts such a Resolution, forward it to both RWU and your National leadership.

Sample Local Union Resolution Here

Meantime, national union officials are also starting to voice support for the concent. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) adopted a Resolution in May at the national Convention. Other unions are expected to soon follow suit.

Read the Trackworkers (BMWED) Resolution Here

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Read the Machinists (IAM) Resolution Here

District Lodge #19 of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) - the District which represents U.S. railroad machinist members - adopted the Resolution at Convention in September. The Resolution was put forward by Lodge #27 in Kansas City, MO.

Read the Engineers & Trainmen Resolution (BLET) Here

At the BLET Convention in Las Vegas, NV on October 3rd, 2018, the delegate assembled voted overwhelmingly for a resolution is support of one universal bargaining coalition of all rail labor. The Resolution was submitted by BLET #51 based in Salt Lake City, UT.


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Check out the Railroad Union Officer Salary & Expense Report

Ever wonder just how much money your top union officials make? Well, RWU has put together a comprehensive listing of all rail union officer salaries and expenses for the last fiscal year from all of the rail unions in the United States. The information comes courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor and is public information, available to anyone by simply checking the DoL website. But for convenience sake, we thought we would compile the complete listing and put it all in one nice, neat package for railroad workers to take a look at. Too much? Too little? Just about right?  You be the judge.

Become an RWU Sustainer Today!

With all the issues confronting by rank & file railroaders this past year, Railroad Workers United has dramatically increased our level of activity. We are literally taking our organization “to the next level”, developing desperately needed staff personnel to assist in building up the organization as we approach our tenth anniversary Convention in April 2018. To succeed in our efforts, RWU must get serious about fundraising. Since our founding in 2008, we have managed to pay the bills with the annual dues of our loyal members, sales from our online Store, and the generosity of a handful of member donors.

But organizational necessities – including copying, printing, postage, web hosting, conferences, picket signs, banners, buttons, flyers, and support staff – do not come free. We have the energy, we have the vision and the idealism, and we have bodies. But to expand and grow beyond our limited capacity we are seeking new and diverse sources of funding.

You can help! Please consider becoming an RWU SUSTAINER. All it takes is for you to donate a small amount each week, each pay period or each month to RWU. Or you can make your contribution tax deductible by making it to our 501c3 tax-exempt sister entity - Railroad Workers Education & Legal Defense Foundation (RWF).

Your decision to become a RWU SUSTAINER will assist us to grow and expand our efforts well beyond their current level. Your small but recurring donation will help propel Railroad Workers United to the forefront of the railroad workers' rank & file movement.

RWU Annual Report for 2018

In January, Railroad Workers United issued our Annual Report for 2018, a summary highlighting the achievements and progress of the organization throughout the year. All RWU members in good standing received the Report in the mail in early January inserted in the RWU newsletter, The Highball. Everyone else is welcome and encouraged to read it here.

RWU Circulates "Pledge to be a Loyal Union Member"

At the April Steering Committee meeting, RWU adopted a document that is designed as a template for local unions wishing to be prepared should a national "right-to-work" bill become the law of the land.  This “Pledge of Honor to be a Loyal Union Member” is designed for rail locals around the country to make use of in their efforts to organize the local’s membership prior to any legislation being enacted. Should such a national bill become law, we want to be ready for it, and have all unions members committed to stick with the union and vow to have each others’ backs.

All union locals, divisions, and lodges are encouraged to bring the idea to their monthly union meeting for discussion. Your union may wish to adopt the "Pledge" as is, or modify it and amend it as you see fit. The important thing is to start having these discussions, and get the members mobilized and committed to remain in the union!

Here is a short exercise you can try in your next union meeting, courtesy of our friends at Labor Notes...

Contact Congress in Support of Two-person Crew Legislation

All railroad workers are urged to contact members of the House of Representatives about co-sponsoring The Safe Freight Act of 2017 (H.R. 233), a bill that would mandate two-person train crews on freight trains - a certified locomotive engineer and a certified conductor. Both unions of the operating crafts - the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (BLET) and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Rail Air and Transportation Workers (SMART TD) - are equally supportive of the bill and the concept of a minimum two-person train crew. Read more here.

Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121

We keep on telling the FRA ... NO SINGLE EMPLOYEE TRAIN CREWS!

Protect the Safety of Railroad Workers and the Community:
No Single Employee Train Crews!

On March 15th, 2016 the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced a Proposed Rule on Train Crew Staffing for trains in the United States. While the Proposed Rule has some merit, ultimately it provides a road map by which any rail carrier can apply fort he right to ruin trains with a signle crew member on board. After careful consideration, Railroad Workers United came to the only conclusion possible: the Proposed Rule on Train Crew Staffing as written would allow any rail carrier - large or small, passenger or freight, Class One or tourist railway - to obtain the FRA's blessing to run any type of train with a single employee. Therefore, RWU was the first to sound the alarm and proclaim complete and total opposition to the Rule.

RWU has buttons, stickers, T-shirts, hats, and more, available for RWU members and the public.      Check out the RWU Store      today!

RWU has buttons, stickers, T-shirts, hats, and more, available for RWU members and the public. Check out the RWU Store today!

As a result, we worked diligently throughout Spring and Summer 2016 to bring the voice of the rank & file railroader and concerned citizens to the table. Nearly 1600 comments were submitted during the initial comment period, the overwhelming majority in opposition to the Proposed Rule. RWU testified publicly at the oral hearing in Washington D.C. in July. To their credit, the BLET and SMART have also come out in opposition to the Proposed Rule.

We await the FRA's Final Rule on the question and will circulate it along with our comments once it is released. In the meantime, click on any of the links below to learn more about the Proposed Rule and RWU efforts to stop single employee train crew operations.

RWU has an ongoing long term Campaign of opposition to single employee crews dating back to 2008 (and beyond). To learn more about it and how you can be involved, see the link below:

We continue to agree with the joint statement from nearly 7 years ago that the BLET and UTU unions made in a joint Petition filed in June 2009 with the FRA on the question which reads: "No conditions exist where one-person operations are safe."  And since the Proposed Rule is predicated on the "safe" operation of trains with a single crew member, we urge the FRA to promulgate a rule that outlaws the practice.

RWU hosts a Facebook Page.  It is a place for railroaders to go in addition to this website for information about the rail industry, rail labor, and Railroad Workers United. Until recently, we hosted a large Discussion Group Forum which attracted much attention and interest, but unfortunately also attracted rail managers, trolls, and those opposed to our goals and objectives as well as our Statement of Principles. As a result, the RWU Steering Committee voted overwhelmingly in January 2019 to dissolve the Group. In its place, we intend to initiate future forums that will be more focused and directed to issues directly affecting railroad workers. We hope you will join us!

RWU publishes The Highball - our quarterly newsletter - and makes it available in hard copy (directly mailed to our members) as well as online. The newsletter reports on issues of concern to the rank & file railroad worker, and offers analysis, opinion and commentary on current affairs in the industry. Check out the latest issue of The Highball  each time it is published right here on the website. Or you can sign up for RWU News Alerts and get it emailed to you each issue. OR better yet, Join RWU and have a hard copy mailed to you each issue!

You can view and make copies of the Current Issue of The Highball.

Click HERE to send us an email if you would like to help distribute The Highball in your work terminal and/or across your division.

If you wish to view back issues of the newsletter, click HERE.

To view the archives and see all individual article from the Highball since 2008, click HERE.

Rail Teamsters Vote Teamsters United

Posted on December 08, 2016

Fred Zuckerman and Teamsters United campaigned on a platform of fighting job elimination, outsourcing, and fighting for safety for rail workers and the public. Rail Teamsters responded.

The 40,000 members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) voted by 59.1% for Fred Zuckerman over Hoffa.

The 33,000 members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWE) voted by 60.1% for Fred Zuckerman.

The Teamsters on almost every rail carrier voted for Teamsters United.

“We in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (BLET) affiliated with the Teamsters over 12 years ago, to join a more powerful union. The BMWE joined a couple years later. But that power that the rank and file expected hasn’t materialized.    “The carriers continue to abuse the contract, discipline is more rampant and out of control, health benefits have deteriorated, and job elimination is a constant threat. The union has not stemmed the bleeding.    “So Rail Teamsters—engineers and trainmen in the BLET and track workers in the BMWED—voted for change in the Teamster International election by a 3-2 margin. That change might not be the total solution to our problems, but could be the start of a solution.”    Ron Kaminkow is an Amtrak engineer in Reno, Nevada and a member of BLET #51. He is also the General Secretary of Railroad Workers United.

“We in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen (BLET) affiliated with the Teamsters over 12 years ago, to join a more powerful union. The BMWE joined a couple years later. But that power that the rank and file expected hasn’t materialized.

“The carriers continue to abuse the contract, discipline is more rampant and out of control, health benefits have deteriorated, and job elimination is a constant threat. The union has not stemmed the bleeding.

“So Rail Teamsters—engineers and trainmen in the BLET and track workers in the BMWED—voted for change in the Teamster International election by a 3-2 margin. That change might not be the total solution to our problems, but could be the start of a solution.”

Ron Kaminkow is an Amtrak engineer in Reno, Nevada and a member of BLET #51. He is also the General Secretary of Railroad Workers United.

Behavior-Based Safety: Myth or Magic?

(Many of the BBS "experts" (E. Scott Geller) just can't admit they were wrong. But some are beginning to realize that a safety program that will not address the underlying causes/hazards or the culpability of corporate management's attitude is doomed to fail.  Note:  This article is from EHS Today. Emphasis is strictly ours).

Oct 1, 2007

When it was introduced, behavior-based safety (BBS) was seen as a magic panacea for everything that ailed safety programs. “It was the Swiss Army Knife of safety programs. It could take care of everything,” says Ron Bowles, director of operations for Portland, Ore.-based Strategic Safety Associates. “Now people realize that it is just one tool and more are needed.”

Decades after the initial launch of BBS programs, the process has lost favor with many safety managers, who claim the cost – such programs can be expensive – and the long-term results are not what they expected.

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Some experts argue that expectations for BBS were unrealistic from the start, while others believe the process has been corrupted at some companies, transformed into an auditing program that assumes a “blame the employee” attitude about safety failures.   CLICK HERE to read more.

The Railroad Workers Education & Legal Defense Foundation

Railroad Workers United now has a 501c(3) Foundation dedicated to educating and defending railroad workers interests across North America and providing them with the tools they need to win.

Railroad Workers Education & Legal Defense Foundation (RWELDF) is set up to receive tax-deductible donations in order to provide grassroots education and leadership development programs that help railroad workers understand the issues they face, to build unity and solidarity among railroaders, and ensure democracy and transparency in our unions.        



NOTE: Railroad Workers Education & Legal Defense Foundation does not solicit nor accept funding from any employer-related or anti-labor sources.

RWU Rail Safety Conferences

In 2015, RWU sponsored a series of conferences entitled Railroad Safety: Workers, Community & the Environment in Richmond, CA, Olympia, WA and Chicago, IL entitled: "Rail Safety: Workers, Community & the Environment" in order to educate the public about rail safety and to build and allinace with citizens and environmental groups to defend our jobs and help to build a safer workplace and a safer railroad.

Here is Brother John Wright's (RWU Co-chair) video report on the conference in Richmond CA.

Brother J.P Wright's Away-from-Home TV Report

Railroad Workers United is proud to be at the forefront of the emerging labor-community alliance to defend our mutual interests. for example, railroad workers and the communities we operate through are both concerned about railroad safety.  And while we may come atthe question from differing angles, our interests in the safety question - and other issues - are surely close enough that they pose a historic possibility, a window of opportunity for a new alliance that would strengthen both labor and community vs. the rail carriers. Click on link above for more information.

What’s Wrong with Single Employee Train Operations?

By Ron Kaminkow
General Secretary,  Railroad Workers United

At first glance, the casual observer from outside of the rail industry is prone to say that single employee train operation sounds dangerous. “What if the engineer has a heart attack?” is an often heard question. And while this question has merit, there are many other and far more complex and unanswered questions about just how single employee train operations could be accomplished safely and efficiently for the train crew, the railroad and the general public. How will the train make a back-up move? What happens when the train hits a vehicle or pedestrian? How will the train crew member deal with “bad-order” equipment in his/her train, or make pick-ups and set-outs en route? What about job briefings and calling signals, copying mandatory directives and reminders of slow orders? These are just some questions that we take up in this article. Read More...

Railroad Workers United 6th Biennial Convention

RWU conducted our 6th Convention in conjunction with the Labor Notes Conference in Chicago IL.

You can read all about it in The Highball by clicking HERE.

The 7th Biennial Convention is tentatively scheduled for April 16th of 2020 in Chicago, IL. We hope to see you there!

Delegates to the RWU 6th Biennial Convention in Chicago, IL discuss and debate resolutions in April, 2018..

Delegates to the RWU 6th Biennial Convention in Chicago, IL discuss and debate resolutions in April, 2018..

RWU was founded in the spring of 2008 in Dearborn, MI. when rail activists came together from various crafts, unions and rail carriers to build a solidarity organization of all railroad workers in North America. Labor Beat - a Chicago based non-profit - was there to film the proceedings and interview the founding members. Check out the 25 minute video -- now up on U-tube -- of the RWU Founding Convention.

The fractured nature of rail labor has led RWU to initiate a program to honor each and every railroad worker killed on the job, regardless of what craft and what union the worker was a member of. When a brother or sister is killed in the line of duty, it is the concern of all of us, whatever position we currently hold on the property and whatever union they happen to be paying dues to.

When we learn of a railroad fatality, we issue an ALERT that gets posted to our list serve, asking our members and supporters to take action. We compile a Listing of All Fallen Rails each year.

Each year since 2009 we have conducted Railroad Workers Memorial Day to honor and remember rails killed in the line of duty.


RWU Campaign Against Single Employee Train Crews

The Campaign was officially unleashed on Labor Day 2012. The rail carriers have been slowly but surely making inroads and it is only a matter of time before they make an all-out press for universal single employee crews. RWU says HELL NO! And we encourage all of our members and supporters, all railroad workers to get involved in the campaign.  READ MORE...

Popular Science magazine offers one of the best in-depth descriptions of the issues surrounding Positive Train Control.  CLICK HERE to read.

"The advent of new technology together with a decline in union power, coupled with the rail carriers’ arrogant disregard for worker and public safety has seen the standard five-person train crew drop first to three, and then to two crew members. Now the big railroad companies have their sights set on implementation of the universal single employee train crew. The only thing that can stop them is YOU! Please join with Railroad Workers United in our effort to stop the implementation of single employee train crews!"

The last decade or so has witnessed a proliferation of “Blame-the-Worker” safety programs on Class 1 railroads in the U.S. These programs have been fairly commonplace in other industries and many other labor unions have been struggling with them for years. In effect, these so-called "behavior based safety programs" are little more than a thinly veiled attempt by the employer to shift the blame for accidents, injuries, and fatalities away from management responsibility and lay it at the doorstep of worker behavior. They are a fraud and a farce and are - in fact - dangerous. Click HERE to Read More.

Rail freight carrier and passenger train companies have been finding ways to get their workers to do more for less for the past few decades. Considering how much the economy of the U.S. depends upon the massive amount of freight moved by trains, one would think the unions representing those workers to be very powerful. However, there are a dozen or so different unions, divided by craft, representing different sectors of the workforce on the various rail properties from coast to coast. To counter the divisive race to the bottom caused by cross-union fratricide in the industry, rank-and-file rail workers from every craft and union have joined together to form RAILROAD WORKERS UNITED. [To watch the 20 minute video, click on the icon above].

Watch Mark at the SMART Convention

Watch Mark at the SMART Convention

Mark Burrows -- former RWU Co-Chair now retired -- speaks from the floor of the UTU convention in 2011. His short speech is very inspiring, and is well worth having a look at.

For a number of years prior to his retirement in early 2016, Mark wrote a regular column in The HIghball - the RWU Newsletter. Those articles are archived on the website and can be accessed in their entirety HERE.

RWU Adopts a Series of New Resolutions at 6th Biennial Convention

At the 6th Biennial Convention in Chicago, RWU adopted a series of resolutions. While these are simply public statements of our position of various issues, they are designed to anchor the organization and give it guidance and direction in the coming years. Without action of course, these resolutions are hollow words. So let’s make them happen!


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