RWU Campaign for Coordinated Bargaining
"One Big Labor Coalition"
For nearly 150 years rail labor has been divided into a myriad of craft unions. At one time, 26 different unions represented workers on the railroads of the U.S. alone! Through mergers and craft obsolescence, this number has been now reduced to the current 13 or so.
The history of this cumbersome, bureaucratic and divisive quagmire of rail labor is one of ineffectual bargaining at best; and sellouts, back-stabbing, and outright union scabbing at worst.
The failure of rail labor to stick together and to build a common strategy and a common platform has historically been one of the greatest impediments to railroad workers achieving their goals.
While most rank-and-filers and many union leaders agree that coordinated bargaining makes sense, there are many obstacles to achieving this worthy goal. Some of these include:
- Desire on the part of some union leaders to protect their own personal fiefdom.
- Lack of imagination and a belief that nothing new is possible.
- Long standing hostilities and distrust among some unions based upon past bargaining experiences.
- Some union leaders who feel the best way to bargain is to win favor with the carrier, be the first to settle, never risk a Presidential Emergency Board, offer the carrier a good deal, etc.
We need to overcome these obstacles and forge ahead, building a complete coalition of rail labor.
Below are some ways that you and your local union can get involved in the campaign.
- Make multiple copies of the Fall 2009 special issue of The Highball and distribute them to your co-workers.
- Pass a resolution of support for coordinated bargaining at your local meeting
- Distribute literature, posters and other materials at work (all available on the RWU website)
- Talk to your co-workers about solidarity and the need to bargain as a group.
- Communicate with union brothers and sisters of other crafts, get to know one another and talk about the need to stick together throughout this coming round of bargaining.
The time to organize a coalition of rail labor is now, before the next round of bargaining. If it all makes sense to you, please get involved in the campaign and together, we can make it happen! Solidarity!
A Brief History of Coordinated Bargaining & Action on the Rails
Despite the fact that railroaders in the U.S. have been hamstrung by a myriad of craft unions, numerous efforts have been made over the years by railroaders and forward thinking union leaders to build rail labor coalitions. These efforts have never been easy and have been imperfect. Nevertheless, they are a vital part of the history of rail labor and offer us a lot to learn in our efforts to build a universal bargaining coalition of all rail labor.
Coordinated Bargaining Efforts in Other Industries
In addition to the long history of attempts at coalition building on the railroad (see article, Page 3), a number of coordinated bargaining efforts have taken place in recent years in other industries. Some of them have met with a degree of success and deserve our attention. We have a lot to learn from their struggles. READ MORE...
Success Story: Coordinated Bargaining at GE
After years of competition, disunity and infighting, workers at GE formed the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC) in 1966. The big breakthrough came with the 1969 national strike when all unions stuck together and emerged from the strike in coalition, one that has lasted from then until the present, having bargained as a group through numerous contracts in the last forty years or so. READ MORE...
Here is a Commentary from the Special Coordinated Bargaining Issue of The Highball:
Democracy: Membership Mobilization is Key to Victory
While construction of a national grand bargaining coalition of all rail labor is vital if we are to build a future for rail labor based upon resisting concessions and winning good contracts, in and of itself it is not enough. In addition, we need the active participation of the rank-and-file in the whole process, beginning to end. Railroad Workers United has a slogan: "unity, solidarity, democracy". The concepts all work as one. Much of this newsletter has talked about the former, unity and solidarity. This commentary will address the third concept - democracy.
A union bargaining committee and union officials have only so much power at the table if they lack an informed and motivated membership to back up the leadership. This is true whether the bargaining team is bargaining a local agreement, a master contract, or in this case, a cross craft agreement negotiated by a coordinated bargaining coalition. READ MORE...
Materials for the Battle for Coordinated Bargaining
Download and print the Coordinated Bargaining Flyer
One union local's effort to volunteer for the Campaign
RWU's letter to launch the Coordinated Bargaining Campaign
Links to Coordinated Bargaining efforts by other unions
Fall 2009 issue of The Highball - dedicated to Coordinated Bargaining