Railroad Workers Bulletin (铁路工人通讯) is an independent periodical produced by and for Chinese railroaders since last summer (2015), with the aim of promoting communication and “mutual aid” among railroad workers of all categories in the face of the industry’s profit-oriented restructuring and scattered resistance over the past few years.
Such projects are extremely rare in China. Most of those not controlled by party-state organs such as the union federation (ACFTU) are produced by academics or professional NGOs shaped by their dependence on grantmaking foundations. The editors of Railroad Workers Bulletin, on the other hand, describe themselves as a group of ordinary workers independent from external agendas, and who hope to include voices from as broad a spectrum of railroaders as possible (although the selection is clearly influenced by the editors’ own militant perspective). This project seems to be inspired by certain labor initiatives in other countries, such as Railroad Workers United, a cross-union rank-and-file organization in North America discussed in issue #3.
Below is the first in a series of translations we will publish from the Bulletin.
“Prologue” (开场白) to Railroad Workers Bulletin, issue #1 (June 16, 2015)
A platform for communication, cooperation and expression among railroaders.
This is a bulletin produced by a group of railroad workers, published online and via cell phone.
Why compile this?
Because we have some stories we’d like to tell.
Because we have some feelings we’d like to express, hoping they find some resonance.
Because the lives of railroaders are growing worse by the day, stress is increasing, and our divided situation as “a sheet of loose sand” has made us weak. So we have to try to change things, to strengthen connections and communication among all kinds of workers in every locality, department and job description. We need more militants who think seriously about workers’ rights. We need everyone to recognize that we are an organic whole breathing the same air of a common fate.
Railroad Workers Bulletin is a platform created for this purpose, for the transmission of information, discussion and mutual aid among all railroaders. It is all we can do to try to bring together increasing numbers of militant workers from everywhere in the spirit of democratic participation and egalitarian cooperation.
We have been torn part by multiple divisions: into collective workers, contract workers, formal workers, dispatch [i.e. temp agency] workers, sub-contracted workers…. We have to face up to and break through these boundaries, demanding equality and unity among all workers.
We are concerned with all policies, laws and events affecting the lives and working conditions of railroad employees. We focus especially on rights-defense events, trying to follow up and report on them.
For workers involved in rights-defense, we try to provide them with legal advice and other support.
This Bulletin will mainly be transmitted among railroaders. If you find it meaningful, please share it with your coworkers.
Some people will ask, “What’s the use if workers read it? It would be useful only if other people read it.” For example, those people who control our fates, “society,” public opinion.
We’re not opposed to other people learning about our conditions, feelings and ideas, but our primary goal is solidarity and communication among ourselves as workers. Because the key to changing our fate is always in our own hands.
Feel welcome to contact us, join us, and help us produce this bulletin.
—a group of railroaders