From Washington state to Texas, striking oil workers can name the co-workers who have been lost to what one Shell manager called “the company’s fundamental rights to staff operations according to business needs.” Striking rail workers at Canadian Pacific Railway carried signs saying, “Fatigue kills.”
The derailed oil tankers that are still burning in West Virginia and Ontario as the Militant goes to press bring home what railroad workers have been saying about the dangers of smaller crews, longer trains and the massive increase in rail transportation of volatile crude oil. The West Virginia wreck involved new, supposedly stronger tank cars that U.S. officials have deemed adequate in order not to cost the titans of industry too much.
In these fights workers come up not only against the capitalists directly, but the governments that represent them. The Canadian government rushed to intervene against the rail workers strike, as Ottawa and Washington have done many times before. President Barack Obama dispatched his secretary of labor to the West Coast to put the squeeze on the longshore workers.
Intervention by the employers’ state is never neutral. They claim to speak for the interests of all of us, the “public.” But there is no “us.” There are two classes with sharply counterposed interests — the propertied owners and the millions of workers and farmers.
We need fighting unions to win workers control over conditions on the job, including the power to shut down production in face of any threat to safety — for us, the community and nature.
And they point to the need for our class and its allies to fight to overthrow the rule of capital, as workers and farmers did in Cuba in 1959, and establish workers power.
Organizing the broadest possible solidarity and participation in these labor battles should be the priority for all working people — from joining the oil workers picket lines and rallies to initiating solidarity resolutions in unions and other organizations to raising funds. The upcoming conferences on “The Future of Railroads: Safety, Workers, Community and the Environment” will be a chance for rail workers and others to discuss and organize around many of these questions. And we can build links of solidarity with those involved in social struggles, such as those demanding the arrest of police who killed farmworker Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco, Washington.
Oil workers: ĎOn strike for safer job conditionsí
Walkout in interest of whole working class
Oil train derails, explodes, fouling river in WVa
West Coast dock bosses lock out port workers, attack union
On the Picket Line
Facing govít threats, Canadian railworkers end strike
Conferences in March to discuss fight for rail safety
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