US labor law is designed to prevent railroad strikes like the kind that shook America in the past. But the constant cuts to staffing levels and erosion of conditions for rail workers could produce a national rail walkoff by September.

By Jeff Schuhrke, Jacobin

After thirty months of stalled contract negotiations amid the pandemic — all while enduring stagnant wages, heavier workloads, unsafe conditions, and draconian attendance policies — 115,000 fed-up US freight railroad workers are mobilizing for a possible national strike.

Portrait engineer under inspection and checking construction process railway switch and checking work on railroad station .Engineer wearing safety uniform and safety helmet in work.

On Saturday, a few hundred rail workers from multiple craft unions gathered with allies in Galesburg, Illinois, to signal to the federal government and major rail carriers that they are ready for a showdown.

“I have never seen in my experience working in this industry the kind of unity that you all are displaying right now,” Greg Regan, president of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, told the crowd. “This is not just a rail labor fight; this is a labor movement fight.”

Some of the craft unions represented at the Galesburg event included the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD), the Teamsters’ Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED), and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers (Boilermakers).

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