The recent bipartisan vote on the railroad contract makes it crystal clear which side the “major” parties are on. On Thursday, December 1, 2022, the United States Congress voted to impose a contract on the railroad workers at the bidding of President Joe Biden.
The contract was negotiated in September by a special board set up by Biden after the rail companies and the unions could not come to agreement. The sticking point was the question of paid sick days. The workers had exactly zero and were asking for a “handful.” The bosses would not budge. Biden’s board came up with a “compromise.” One paid personal day and 3 days of unpaid leave per year.
Four of the railroad unions, whose membership comprises about 60% of the industry’s workers, voted to reject the deal. Claiming that a rail strike would cripple the economy, Biden called on Congress to impose the contract.
The response by the Democrats and the Republicans in the two houses of Congress was no surprise. Democrats made speeches about the right to seven days paid sick leave. The House passed two separate bills, one to grant the sick leave, and the next to impose a contract. Predictably, the sick leave guarantee could not muster the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate, while imposing the contract passed overwhelmingly.
Some might draw the conclusion that the solution would be to elect more Democrats and to end the filibuster. We agree that the filibuster is undemocratic but reject the idea that the Democrats act in the interest of working-class people. If they did, they would let the union workers use their collective power to achieve their just demands.
It is clear that workers need their own party. The Peace and Freedom Party platform calls for guaranteeing the right of all workers to organize and to strike. When you register to vote, think about the song, “Which side are you on?”
– written by Debra Reiger
Peace & Freedom Party Chair