A critical mass protest demonstration in support of railroad workers’ right to sick days was held in New York City at the landmark Grand Central Station on Dec. 7, 2022. The rally, attended by labor unions, human rights organizations and political activists, marched through the station chanting, “Sick days are a human right!”
The rally was attended by several organizations, including the Coalition of Black Trade Unions, Workers Assembly Against Racism, Teamsters Local 808 and endorsed by Amazon Labor Union, Struggle La Lucha, Association of Commuter Rail Employees – Signal Maintainers, SouthWest Airline Pilots Union, United Federation of Teachers, NYS Nurses Association, Electrical Workers Local 3 and many others.
The organizers and participants had responded to the call from the December 12th Movement, who understood that workers are building a broad coalition throughout the United States in support of the railroad workers and their right to paid sick leave—while railroad companies made over $21.2 billion in profits the first three quarters of this year.
Organizers say that the December mobilization has put major union leadership and the Biden administration on notice that waving a Trump fear flag cannot and will not deter workers and the broad community from the human right for sick days.
In fact, the intensification of this fundamental workers’ struggle led more than 70 U.S. lawmakers to write a letter to President Biden urging him to guarantee rail workers’ sick leave.
According to a Reuters article written by David Shepardson on Dec. 9, the letter said the Labor Department can set mandatory occupational safety and health standards for businesses affecting interstate commerce that could cover paid sick time, while the Transportation Department must promote safe railroad operations: “Guaranteeing that workers are not operating trains or inspecting rail signals while sick or tired would fundamentally improve the safety of our national rail operations,” the letter said.
On this point, as a signatory of the lawmakers’ letter to Biden, Progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “Railroad workers grind themselves to the bone for this country as their labor produces billions for Wall St. They demand the basic dignity of paid sick days. I stand with them. If Congress intervenes, it should be to have workers’ backs and secure their demands in legislation.”
Key sponsor and a spokesperson for the Grand Central Station mass support rally, Omowale Clay of the December 12th Movement stated, “We demand that President Biden issue an executive order concretizing the human right of workers to paid sick leave now!”
Representatives of labor unions, human rights organizations and community leaders strove to educate the masses of people passing through Grand Central Station, to the absolute necessity that workers see that the power is in their hands to demand and win sick days as a human right.