The Transportation Division of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Union (SMART) has formally requested authorization to strike in response to a new “Hi-Viz” attendance policy. According to a BNSF Railway locomotive engineer, the new policy requires a worker to work 14 days consecutive without calling in sick or using a vacation before getting one weekend day off. This policy is slated to go into effect on February 1, 2022.
The new rule would be in direct violation of policies previously negotiated and agreed upon by both the union and BNSF. This reflects years of continued aggressive enforcement of attendance policies, meant to increase the efficiency and profit of the capitalists while subjecting workers to harsh working conditions, and unfair punishments. It likely also reflects the specific pressures of the COVID-19 crisis and an attempt to coerce workers to keep working, regardless of their health.
It’s unclear if Jeremy Ferguson, President of SMART, has approved the strike yet, but if so, it will be yet another blow to the supply chain in this country. The working class continues to put pressure on the capitalists through means of work disruption and stoppages, making it clear that 2022 is already shaping up to be one of working-class struggle and continued solidarity. There is no word on a strike fund or mutual aid yet, but once approved those should become available and open to donation.
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TJ Johnson is a communist and anti-war vet.