This is an age old question dating back to the story of Cain and Abel, and it is more relevant in today’s culture than ever before. The clear and convincing answer to this question is YES, yes we are our “Brother’s Keeper.” Being our “Brother’s Keeper” is the most crucial, steadfast, and challenging pillar of maintaining the integrity and strength that the United States of America was founded upon. Throughout history, the Labor Movement has been, and will continue to be, the “Brother’s Keeper” for America’s working class. As a Union brother or sister, it is the role and responsibility of each of us to serve as our brothers’ keeper in our workplace and in our society. Throughout 2017, we have seen this question become irrefutably critical, as a country and as a Union.
As a country, we have witnessed the corporate elite and their friends serving in governmental leadership roles launch assaults on their fellow American men and women, our brothers and sisters. From their greedy desire to remove the basic human right of healthcare from millions of the weakest citizens, to them idly standing by as groups of individuals incite violence and repugnant rhetoric upon fellow Americans of different backgrounds. The Labor Movement has seen our country’s new Labor Department seek changes to labor laws which would further favor a company, an entity, over a worker, a human. Despite these attacks by the privileged 1%, there is no question that America’s working class is the main cog in the machinery of the system that provides them with their spoils. Their years of innovative and greed-driven tactics to divide and pit the hard-working Americans of the working class against each other will not prevail. History has shown that the power of a united working class is the overwhelming driving force of change. This was evident for us in our National Agreement negotiations with the freight rail carriers.
The BRS and fellow railroad labor unions in the Coordinated Bargaining Group (CBG), representing a united front of over 58% of railroad workers, were able to acquire a Tentative National Agreement with the freight rail carriers on October 4, 2017. The Tentative Agreement came after a challenging and unique round of bargaining with the railroads. We saw, for the first time, the railroads coming together in an attempt to force us to concede and give up rules and reserved work that we spent countless years protecting, as well as conform to unacceptable changes to the railroad’s ability to alter our hours and location from where our pay starts with little notice to the employee. This was accompanied with the offering of a wage and healthcare package that would have caused financial harm. (See NCCC Proposal under National Negotiations tab at brs.org) Despite the carriers’ emboldened and authoritarian demands, the CBG remained united and stood our ground in denying carriers’ arbitrary agreement proposal. It was not until the final hours of mediation that the carriers finally began negotiating honestly and providing more realistic terms for an Agreement. The end result was a respectful Tentative National Agreement, in large part due to the unity displayed by railroad workers.
We were able to be our “brother’s keeper” by removing our Brotherhood from the threat of losing the work that has been protected and reserved for our trained membership, the stress of having our reporting locations moved on a moment’s notice in order to pay us less for our time, and the damaging effects of astronomical increases to healthcare costs with unrealistic wages increases to compensate. It is up to each one of us to be our “brother’s keeper,” through educating rather than using baseless assertions in an attempt to persuade, having your brother’s best interests in mind and listening to them rather than deciding what you believe is best for them, and doing our part as role models of mutual brotherly love and respect rather than slandering or bringing down people for minimal individual benefit. We should be proud American Union workers, together moving towards a better and brighter tomorrow for all of us. Let us move forward, not with the question “am I my brother’s keeper” but with the question “am I being my brother’s keeper?”
In the spirit of Unity and togetherness, I want to wish you all a Merry Christmas. May your holiday season be filled with joy, laughter, and moments with your loved ones that can be cherished all year round. May the happiness and hope of the season be carried with you into the New Year.
W. Dan Pickett