August 7, 2006

What determines whether you will continue to hold a good-paying railroad job with the health-care and retirement benefits your family is counting on?

Will it be the strength of the U.S. economy? The health of the railroad industry? Continued growth in world trade, coal shipments, or demand for ethanol?

The answer is “None of the above.” The single most important factor that will determine whether you continue to hold a secure railroad job is who holds political power in this country—the people who sit in Congress and the people who serve in the administration.

The people who hold power and how they got there: Bush’s friends from the railroad industry

The people who hold those positions today are not friendly to railroad workers.

Vice President Dick Cheney is a former member of the Union Pacific’s board of directors.

President Bush’s former chief of staff, Andrew Card, just joined the UP board.

Bush’s new chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, has close ties to the railroad industry.

Former Bush Treasury Secretary John Snow was chairman and chief executive officer of CSX Corp.

BNSF Railway Chairman and CEO Matt Rose has been a leading personal donor to the Bush campaign.

Amtrak Chairman David Laney also is a leading donor and fund-raiser for the Bush campaign and served as chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission when George W. Bush was that state’s governor.

Senior executives of CSX and NS, along with most officers of most other railroads, also donated heavily to the Bush campaign. The railroads these men serve consistently have some of the largest lobbying budgets and the largest staffs of in-house and outside lobbyists in Washington.

And they all expect the federal government to deliver something in return for the money they’ve invested.

Your job is in Bush’s crosshairs, and his finger’s on the trigger

The return they’re looking for now is your job. They want to cut their companies’ costs by reducing railroad payrolls. They plan to use Positive Train Control (PTC) as a ruse to convert as much of the industry as possible to One Man Crews.

And because they’ve got their hands on the presidency, they think they can do it. The president appoints the administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the agency which develops, implements and enforces safety regulations; certifies new safety technologies such as PTC and RCO; and rules on the safety impact of one-man crews.

The president also appoints the members of the National Mediation Board (NMB), the body that oversees our national negotiations and recommends when a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) should be appointed.

One of Bush’s recent appointees to the NMB is Peter Tredick. He built his career advising corporation how to break unions and how to defend themselves against union actions.

The president also has the power to appoint the members of a Presidential Emergency Board (that’s why it’s called “Presidential”) and the railroad industry has been at work hand-picking who it wants appointed to the next PRB. When Bush makes those appointments it is anticipated that they will follow the industry’s recommendations.

Union votes can defeat the threat

Fortunately, there is a way railroad employees can foil the plans of the administration-industry cabal and protect today’s railroad jobs: the ballot box.

In fact, we’ve already won one of the first skirmishes in this war. Recently, large numbers of UTU members joined hands to persuade key members of Congress to ask each railroad CEO to keep the industry at the bargaining table rather than dump its unresolved labor agenda on Congress.

That letter-writing campaign bought us some critical time. But what we’re going to need now is more friends in Congress—large number of new senators and representatives elected to office with a UTU endorsement based on their understanding of those issues that directly affect us as rail workers.

That’s what the November election is all about. We can’t change the administration, because a new president will not be elected until 2008. But in November 2006 one third of the nation’s Senate seats and all 435 House seats will be up for election. A strong turnout by UTU members, their families and friends can change enough faces in Congress to stymie the administration’s plan to convoke a PEB and force a One Man Crew settlement.

The fate of your job is up to you; follow these steps to protect it:

The UTU and other unions have proved time and time again that an organized, well led army of working people can defeat the plans of even the richest, most determined and most politically connected corporate chieftains. The process is simple, but it works only if each one of us carries out his or her duties at the appropriate time and in the right sequence:

First, if you are not registered to vote, register NOW.

Second, make sure all eligible members of your family and your network of coworkers also register to vote.

Third, educate yourself, your family and your coworkers about the importance of voting for candidates endorsed by the UTU. Party affiliation is not an issue here. UTU-endorsed candidates are found in both parties and are determined solely on where they stand on those issues that affect your job.

Fourth, sign up for the UTU Rapid Response program so you can be mobilized instantly when the UTU political army goes into action. Just go to and click on “Rapid Response Registration.” Then enter your e-mail address and ZIP code. When political action is needed in your area, you’ll be alerted.

Fifth, urge your co-workers to sign up for Rapid Response. The bigger our army’s size, the more strength it can bring to bear when action is needed.

Finally, join UTU PAC, recruit your fellow crew members into UTU PAC, and give what you can. While pro-management candidates can collect large single donations from a few wealthy corporate donors, pro-labor candidates must rely on smaller individual donations from each working man and woman.

But those small donations can add up—IF the number of donors is large enough. Do not be intimidated by the large donations raised by corporate fat cats. Experience has shown time and time again that big donations from a favored few can be matched, exceeded—and even overwhelmed—by smaller donations from the many—a massed army of working men and women contributing generously from their own earnings. Our thousands of people can beat their millions of dollars.

PTC is coming—but let’s make sure it comes as a safety tool, not an economic weapon

Make no mistake: Positive Train Control is here to stay. The National Transportation Safety Board has been pressing for PTC for years because its accident investigations have shown PTC would have saved the lives of our members by preventing numerous fatal collisions.

But this safety tool must not be used to generate the false economy of eliminating the “craft of Conductor.” The UTU and BLET are of one mind on this issue and have so testified—together—before Congress and federal regulators. The FRA, an administration department controlled by President Bush, will have substantial control over how PTC will be implemented and whether it will lead to One Man Crews.

In order to impose One Man Crews, the carriers will have to win twice—before a PEB and at the FRA. We have to win only once—in the November congressional elections. Your vote is the key to denying the rail barons the twin victories they must have.

That’s why our duty is clear: Join the UTU army and help mobilize the vote for UTU-endorsed congressional candidates on Election Day. With your help we cannot fail.