2015 January - March - Sean Gerie: Stand tall and protect your livelihood

Published: Jan 1 2015 4:47PM

A Vice President Speaks: BMWED: Stand tall and protect your livelihood

Fellow BMWED Brothers and Sisters, 

Perhaps no other workers in the entire country are more affected by the results of political elections than those of us who make our living in the railroad industry. 

Railroad workers’ retirement system was created and continues to be regulated by federal lawmakers. The same can be said for our unemployment benefits, sickness benefit, our entire process of negotiating labor agreements and the filing claims and grievances over applications of those contracts under the Railway Labor Act. 

The National Mediation Board is an agency ran by the Federal Government. They handle our claims, grievances, disciplinary arbitrations and representational elections. It is important to note, the NMB's Board of Directors is appointed by none other than the President of the United States. 

Of course, we're all familiar with the Federal Railroad Administration, which is responsible for the oversight of safety standards and codes pertaining to the safe passage of trains. 
The National Transportation Safety Board, Department of Transportation, and several Congressional committees all weigh in on how we conduct business as an industry. 

Then there is the issue of local, state, and federal subsidies – guess who decides those, too? Elected politicians. 
One in ten railroad workers in the United States is employed by AMTRAK. Take a look at how hotly debated the issue of funding AMTRAK gets on Capitol Hill. 

The Federal Employer’s Liability Act is also a legal protection for railroad workers – a federal law that protects the safety of railroad workers and permits them to recover losses in the event of injuries. Roadway Worker Protection, something we use each and every day when working on the tracks, was enacted and regulated by federal law. 
These are actually just a handful of the many examples the average BMWED member should consider when they fill out their ballot. For better or for worse, the political process has to become a major priority in our lives. 

Whether we like to admit it or not, our very livelihoods are at stake if and when the wrong people get elected. Electing representatives unsupportive of labor, and especially rail labor, could -- and most likely would -- have an adverse effect on BMWED members and their families. 

If I told the average American that there was a group of people out there who would stop at nothing to steal everything you've worked for and everything that you hope to obtain, I'd grab your attention, right? And if I said there are people running for and currently holding office that want to eliminate every chance that your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews have to live a comfortable life, you would instantly become upset, and would certainly take actions to ensure that didn’t happen, correct? 

Well, therein lies the problem in our society. Many working people do believe that, but they may very well be blaming the wrong people. Once misinformed, too many are rewarding those that would do the most harm to them politically. 

Over the course of the last three decades, America’s wealth has shifted so drastically that the statistics are staggering. Let’s take a look : 

According to an article in the April 2014 issue of Forbes business magazine, the average CEO pay has risen to 331 times that of the average worker, and 774 times the minimum wage. Is one person, however "important" he or she may be, really worth 331 more paychecks to your one? Does that seem greedy to you, or is that just me? When “real wages” are adjusted for inflation, most workers are left far behind where they should be. 

Make no mistake, there are groups of people out there working very hard to steal everything the working class has gained in the last 50-plus years. Gains that were aided in very large part to strong Unions. 

Corporations and the ultra-wealthy have been stealing from us for years and they keep coming up with more and more ways to do it. ALEC and the Koch brothers, the Heritage Foundation, all ruses designed to get people to vote against their own self interests. 

We need to recognize these shams and work collectively against them. 

While these modern-day robber barons continue with their smash and grab, they somehow find a way to blame the poor and working class for the nation’s ills. 

There is an all-out attack on working people taking place right now, but not everyone is seeing it. 

And what’s worse? The very same people that stand to lose the battle are helping the other side win! 

Our standard of living is in jeopardy, if not our entire livelihoods. 

Right now there are people hard at work trying to steal your voice in the workplace, in your government, and in your community. Politicians are using cute names for these sneaky, deceitful bills, names like “paycheck protection” and “right to work." 

I call them "paycheck deception" and the right to work for less. These tactics are solely intended to weaken Unions and further eradicate the standard of living of most Americans – to the benefit of the wealthy few. 

We cannot afford to sit idly as these people try to take away the gains that our forefathers in the Labor movement fought so hard to obtain for the working class. Current labor laws, such as our vitally important Railway Labor Act, were not enacted into law by sheer coincidence. These laws were fought for out of absolute necessity. We cannot squander our railroad Union predecessors' hard and dedicated work. 

Just as importantly, we must not allow ourselves to be manipulated into the lies and propaganda that are being promulgated so fiercely in this day and age. We have an obligation to our families and our communities to vote for people who understand and respect our needs and will represent our best interests in the political arena. 
History has shown what BMWED members can do when they work together. I am confident that we will stand strongly united this time around as well. We have no other choice.