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Union: Biden decision ‘does not address rail industry disease’

By | November 29, 2022

Maintenance-of-way union continues call for sick leave, says forced settlement won’t address service issues

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BMWEDlogoNOVI, Mich. — One of the four unions to vote down a tentative agreement with railroads is decrying President Joe Biden’s decision calling on Congress to impose that agreement and prevent a rail strike, continuing its call for paid sick leave while saying the move will not address rail service issues.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is also calling for any legislation to include paid sick leave.

In its statement, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said it is “deeply disappointed by and disagrees with” Biden’s call for agreements that do not include paid sick days. Both the maintenance-of-way workers and members of the SMART-TD union, which represents conductors, have called for sick days to be addressed in the agreement.

Biden’s statement, issued Monday, said he was “reluctant to override the ratification procedures” and shared workers concerns about sick leave, but that “a rail shutdown would devastate our economy” [see “Biden calls on Congress …,” Trains News Wire, Nov. 28, 2022]

But the BMWED statement said the decision “ignores” those concerns and said the sick-time issue is a safety issue: “The railroad is not a place to work while you’re sick. It’s dangerous. It requires full concentration, situational awareness, and decision-making. Because carrier management decided to egregiously reduce workforce, it’s more dangerous than ever, and the onus of that rests with them.”

The union called for Biden and Congress to pass “reforms and regulations that will provide paid sick leave for all railroad workers.”

The Washington Post reports that  Sanders (I-Vt.) says the tentative agreement doesn’t go far enough “by any means.

“I would like to see management come to the table and treat their workers with respect,” Sanders said. “If they don’t, then Congress has got to act to make sure that there is guaranteed sick leave for these workers.”

In September, before the tentative agreement was reached, Sanders blocked a move in the Senate to  impose the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board [see “Sanders blocks Senate resolution …,” News Wire, Sept. 14, 2022].

21 thoughts on “Union: Biden decision ‘does not address rail industry disease’

  1. The BIG QUESTION! How come it’s 2022 and no railroad union contract has paid sick time in it? In the rest of Industry that concept was settled decades if not ov er a century ago. Yes, a state referendum enacted it here and while I voted against it I was using it for weeks after having a mild stroke, parcelling it out in bits to cover insurance deductions. I have read that decades ago because some RR work IS hazardous the men preferred to be covered for weeks and months if injured rather than for a few days here and there. Of course some RR jobs are NOT like that sort of things; yard clerks have little risk of derailing off Rockville into the Susquehanna (must read that story; I know the location!). Maintenance of way guys work straight time without the arcane “108-mile day” rules of the operating crafts. So why hasn’t labor ask hard for this before and what are they prepared to give up in return? Meantime management is running fewer longer trains slower. Last summer CSX freights along the Mohawk were doing 50 instead of the former 70. On BNSF that would lose them a lot of intermodal business!

    1. You answered your own question, right in the middle of your paragraph – prior negotiations included a trade-off of unpaid short-term sick days with higher pay overall, balanced against more benefits for longer-term illness. Money talks, whether it’s railroad management or railroad workers.

  2. The Joe Biden haters need to get with reality.

    First off, the admin is proposing a 2 member crew rule, which directly benefits the unions (SMART-TD in particular).

    Second, Biden the President is accountable for more than Biden the Senator. He doesn’t have the luxury of setting the US on fire and watching it burn. In 1992 Biden could afford to take a principled stance on the issue, he knew full well there were enough votes to pass.

    Third, this game is not over. It was risky to assume that a strike, or Congress, was going to get labor everything they wanted. Ok, no problem, the railroads can deal with this over multiple years of chronic staff shortages because the jobs plain suck.

    Note before the flames: I want railroad labor to get the respect they deserve.

    1. Was wondering when thinking of the last three presidential candidates (Hillary Trump Biden) does the term best and brightest pop into anyone’s mind?

    2. Hillary Trump Biden. Add in Kamala Harris. I couldn’t come up with a worse list if I tried all afternoon.

    3. I have been pleasantly surprised by President Trump. I expected him to fall on his ass as a candidate and be savaged by the Media. Good policies, not so hot at picking people to run things and a very hard boss.
      Biden confirms he’s everything I feared he might be–and worse. The worst sort of Irish bullyboy-gangster, like if Whitey Bulger (fortunately the LATE Whitey Bulger) had made it to the White House. Worse than a Kennedy sexually–vicariously through his son Hunter of whom he is PROUD. Hillary? There’s still a chance, Dick Morris thinks so, but he’s sort of washed-up now.
      Anyone know how the RR workers came to HAVE union contracts with NO sick time in them? I have theories but I gotta go..

    4. Easy one Charles ****when he stood up for his son and got no show money from Ukraine and China

    5. -1992 when he voted against congressional intervention in the strike
      -2021 when he completed the US withdrawal from Afghanistan because he knew nothing was going to get better staying around

    6. Are you aware how MUCH of a mess that withdrawl was? Better to just stay put. Afghanistan was just like our seemingly never-ending Indian Wars and then suddenly they were finally over 1886-90.

    7. Gee, Thomas, who set us up to get out of Afghanistan? Here’s a hint: It wasn’t Joe B.

  3. In my experience with CSX the problem was not so much having paid sick days. I had accumulated over 40 paid personal leave days but scheduling one when you needed it was nearly impossible unless you did it a month in advance. Most health problems don’t give you hat much advance notice.

  4. Taking time off for being sick should not be penalized. However for hourly employees it shouldn’t necessarily be paid. In my 52 years of employment, unless I was salaried it was unpaid. I suffered no disciplinary action for getting sick. One potential solution is to offer employees Paid Time Off which can be used at the employees discretion- vacation or sick time.

  5. So we find out that “Amtrak Joe” isn’t such a friend of the unions after all, what a surprise ……

    The definition of ‘insanity’ is doing the same thing, over-and-over again, and expecting different results. Maybe the union members should re-consider their loyalty to the democrat party. It doesn’t sound like it is being reciprocated ….

    1. As if the GOP is going to help them? This is a quality of life issue (and common sense, in terms of forcing employees to work sick) – and these days, both political parties only give a **** about the organizations and richest individuals that have the clout and cash to get them re-elected. Neither party seems to care.

  6. And yet the unions will continue their propaganda campaign that a certain political party is “pro union” while continuing to sell out the members they are paid to represent. And the fools will continue to believe it.

    1. Amen, Bro’!! I fear being dragooned into a radical union like the SEIU using forced signatures on union cards under a Card Check regime (which my state has for workers like me). I don’t want to be fined $250 for not going and standing out holding signs at an overpass for a certain Senator who claims to be an Indian/Native American–which I’ve known about since the mid-’90’s as I lived with people associated with Harvard who hired Prof. Lie-a-Watha! I nearly got fired for calling her Lie-a-Watha which was claimed to be a racial slur. But would a union have backed me up? No way!! And my great-grandfather was in a coal-mining labor union and I do have sentimental affection for coal miners and John L. Lewis!

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