Railroad Division

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  Black and white photo: motorman and conductor on a flag draped train circa 1950
  A motorman and conductor shake hands during a railroad celebration. During the rail industry’s heyday, TWU represented over 40,000 railroad workers.

TWU’s Railroad Division started out as an organization committee set up by the CIO. The committee built a beachhead for industrial unionism among the non-operating personnel of the Pennsylvania Railroad and soon spread out to include workers from 18 other railroads. From New York to Los Angeles and from Grand Rapids to Nashville, it connected more than 10,000 miles of rail operation and was spread out in 72 locals.

The committee lacked the power they needed to make real changes for railroad workers across America and realized that they would have to join an established leadership to make a difference for members. In September 1954, the committee voted overwhelmingly to merge with TWU. Nearly 40,000 rail workers joined our union, coming from 28 different employers around the nation.

At the time of the merger, the Pennsylvania Railroad management had been laying off maintenance personnel and ignoring proper repair and upkeep of equipment in order to show high profit margins. The unfair furloughs were TWU’s first and biggest problem to tackle.

On January 22, 1955, TWU called a conference in Pittsburgh where they worked out a long-range program to secure full employment for Pittsburgh railroad workers. TWU mobilized public opinion behind its campaign to restore jobs and attain decent livelihoods for their members, advertising how their agenda would help ensure passenger safety. TWU declared for the company to step up its maintenance program, to stop subtracting jobs and to provide furloughed workers with reasonable and compensatory severance pay.

Man driving 1940s era truck with picket signs

A TWU member displayed picket signs on his truck, protesting cuts at the Pennsylvania Railroad.

The union also proposed a System Board of Adjustment for dealing directly with companies involved with worker grievances, instead of the inadequate National Railroad Adjustment Board, which was always delayed and worked on a national level.

A dispute over an unfair scope rule and a job classification clause in a Pennsylvania Railroad contract had been simmering for more than three years when TWU decided it was time to take action. At 12:01 a.m., on September 1, 1960 picket-lines surrounded the company, creating the first strike against the Pennsylvania Railroad in its 114-year history, causing the mighty railroad to ground to a halt.

After 12 days of the strike the union had achieved complete victory, forcing the Pennsylvania company to work out a genuine solution to the workers problems.

Photo of two Amtrak Acela trains

Today, TWU represents railroad workers on many lines throughout the U.S. including Amtrak’s high speed Acela.

Since 1954, TWU has worked tirelessly to preserve railroad jobs and the crucial Railroad Retirement and Unemployment System. We’ve also fought against attacks on the Federal Employers Liability Act, which provides rail workers the ability to sue their employers for injuries suffered on the job.

The popularity of railroads declined with the advent of truck delivery and frequent passenger air travel but has seen a renewal as the country recognizes its value as a cheaper and cleaner way to travel. We will continue to work hard for our railroad members as the industry grows.

Today, we represent railroad workers at Conrail, Amtrak and on a number of short line carriers.


Our History |  TWU Fights for Civil Rights |  AirTransit |  Gaming |  TWU Defining Moments




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