Maximillian Alvarez Union Wave Worker's Rights

Freight Workers Explain Why National Railroad Strike is Looming

Years of cost-cutting, profit-maximizing policies have pushed workers to a breaking point. Here’s what you need to know.
A national rail shutdown, which has not occurred since the early 1990s, would have a major economic impact. Photo: Jim Hamilton, CC BY 2.0.

By Maximillian Alvarez / The Real News Network

On Friday, September 16, the United States could see its first major rail strike and/or rail lockout since the early ’90s. Railroad workers have reached the end of their rope after years of enduring dramatic staff cuts that have piled more work onto fewer workers, along with exhausting schedules and draconian attendance policies that have made it impossible to live and reasonably plan their lives. These cost-cutting, profit-maximizing policies are part of a larger, decades-long trend that workers say have destroyed the freight rail industry. For years, quality of service for freight rail customers and shippers, and quality of life for railroad employees, has plummeted, all while prices, profits, and stock buybacks have skyrocketed. While many are understandably concerned about the seismic damage a national rail strike initiated by the unions, or a lockout initiated by the rail carriers, could do to the supply chain, railroad workers are the ones taking a stand to save the supply chain from the corporate greed that has already done irreparable damage to the freight rail industry. In this urgent episode, recorded on Sunday, September 11, we talk with Jay, a longtime train dispatcher and recent guest on the show, and Joe, a locomotive engineer, about the ongoing crisis on the nation’s railroads and about the latest updates on the dispute between the rail unions and rail carriers as we countdown to the strike/lockout deadline on 12am EDT, September 16.

Additional links/info below…

Maximillian Alvarez
Maximillian Alvarez

Ten years ago, I was working 12-hour days as a warehouse temp in Southern California while my family, like millions of others, struggled to stay afloat in the wake of the Great Recession. Eventually, we lost everything, including the house I grew up in. It was in the years that followed, when hope seemed irrevocably lost and help from above seemed impossibly absent, that I realized the life-saving importance of everyday workers coming together, sharing our stories, showing our scars, and reminding one another that we are not alone. Since then, from starting the podcast Working People—where I interview workers about their lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles—to working as Associate Editor at the Chronicle Review and now as Editor-in-Chief at The Real News Network, I have dedicated my life to lifting up the voices and honoring the humanity of our fellow workers.


  1. The more you dig the more this looks like another manufactured crisis.

    Almost as if there was some kind of sinister plan.

    In the past I never bought into grand conspiracies because it was my feeling you couldn’t let more than three people in on something before it starts to leak. Humans just can’t keep their mouths shut….

    But the last couple years has me re-evaluating that. Either the arrogance, greed and incompetence is so massive that it just makes it appear they are intentionally bringing down civilization, or those who rule are actually trying to do it.

    Something to ponder. Either way the future looks really really bad.


    If this happens, we’ll hear the usual propaganda about how selfish worker behavior is inconveniencing consumers. As if the majority working class weren’t also buyers. As if the incredibly selfish greed of the owning classes hasn’t meant working people to death. Like COVID in meat packing plants and heat exhaustion among delivery drivers.

    Read this writer’s bio; his family lost big because of the Great Recession. A direct result of deregulation brought to us by the disgusting neolib Dems and their corporate sponsors.

    We won’t hear a word about the killer capitalists in the NYT or WaPo. The media will be crying: won’t someone pleeeeaazze think of the poor supply chain? The overtly right wing versions will also be awash in crocodile tears about union bosses while defending those mythical managerial job creators. All the more bitter for transportation systems where upper managers who couldn’t do the jobs get all of the glory while anonymous skilled labor does all the work.

    Nowhere will the truth be told–well-paid workers are the real job creators! Anyway, what’s another dead peasant? We’ve gone from personnel (as if real individual persons) to abstract human resources. Like the rest of the environment, things to be clear-cut and strip-mined for the short term profit of the very few.

  3. better analysis required….how is work organized? are there enough railroad engineers, etc? for those of us that are ignorant about this—it would be helpful to describe the defects in the networks, not simply the working arrangements

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