Betraying the Railroad Workers Is Bad for the Economy

President Biden and Congress blocked the railroad workers from striking, then denied them paid sick days. They said they must deny the workers their rights for the sake of the economy.

I call bullshit.

If Biden and Congress cared about the economy, they would have forced a deal in which railroad workers get seven paid sick days per year. The only reason to deny the workers all their demands is to help the billionaires who own the railroad companies make more profits.

Some people ask: why is it important for railroad workers to get paid sick days now?

They never had guaranteed sick days off now, it is true, but their work conditions have changed. Multiple railroad workers on various websites said that in the past they had much more flexible scheduling, such that it wasn’t hard to get time off when they were sick or needed to go to a doctor’s appointment, then do overtime later if they needed the money. However, the railroads have eliminated much of their workforce, which means there is much less slack. Thus, the workers who remain must work longer hours and are on call 24/7 at 15 minutes’ notice.

The train companies began to penalize workers who took time off, even for scheduled doctors’ appointments. That prompted the threat of striking.

And now, the Democratic Party has betrayed the rail workers. (The Republican Party, aside from a few politicians, never pretended to be on the rail workers’ side, so I wouldn’t call their actions a ‘betrayal’).

Didn’t we all see over the past few years that workers need to have paid sick leave so they will stay home when they’re sick and not infect co-workers? That alone is a much bigger threat to the economy than the owners of the railroads making a little less profit. With such thin staffing, if one railroad worker makes a bunch of other railroad workers sick, nobody might replace them, then the trains will stop running.

Thinned out crews with workers pushed to the brink cause more rail accidents. Those are bad for the economy, but not a problem for the owners of the railroad companies. With friends like President Biden, the railroad owners won’t need to spend their precious profits on compensation for the accidents their policies cause. The government will make someone else pay.

Some people ask why the railroad workers don’t quit if the job is so horrible. The thing is, many of them are quitting, or looking for other jobs so they can quit. The ones who aren’t looking for other work say they need to stay to claim their retirement benefits. That might keep the ones closest to retirement even under grueling conditions (and since they are older they are at greater sick of, um, dying because they can’t get sick leave). As for the rest… how can the railroads function in the long run if they are driving away workers?

Railroad service has already gotten worse because of understaffing, which has made their biggest clients complain.

If many workers quit, and new workers refuse to come after the horrible working conditions have gotten so much publicity, how will the railroads run? That will be harder to resolve than an official strike.

I don’t know how railroad workers will respond. Maybe they will have wildcat strikes—which will be more difficult for everyone. Maybe they will coordinate a mass quitting event, which would be even more difficult for everyone than wildcat strikes. What I think is most likely is that they will quit in a disorganized fashion, as individual workers find escapes. That is the outcome Biden no doubt hopes for, since it would be the easiest to sweep under the rug—but it would also be the worst for people who depend on the railroads. That’s how I know that Biden and the Democratic Party didn’t betray the railroad workers to help the economy.

So far, I’ve focused on the economic impact, but the moral impact is even greater. As someone on Twitter said:

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