Rail workers say trade won’t solve quality of life problems

OMAHA, Nebraska (AP) — When BNSF railroad conductor Justin Schaaf needed to take time off work this summer, he had a choice to make. Either he goes to the dentist to get his cavities filled, or he attends his son’s party. his 7th birthday.

he chose his son.

“Finally, I decided to take time off for my child’s birthday party,” Schaaf said. So I have to pull the tooth out. ”

These are the sort of trade-offs rail workers still fear will have to make after Congress votes this week. impose a contract to avoid them economic disaster It will involve railroad strikes. Workers and their unions say the deal wasn’t enough to address their problems. Quality of life concerns I didn’t add sick leave.

President Joe Biden signed the bill Four out of 12 unions, including a majority of railroad workers, voted in favor of thwarting the strike and forcing workers to accept an agreement made by union leaders in September. reject them. business group prompt Biden will intervene for several weeks.

Schaaf isn’t sure the new deal will make it easier for him to find another vacation to pay for dental implants sometime next year.

“If I had the option to take sick leave, I wouldn’t have been in that situation,” he said from his home in Glasgow, Montana.

Schaaf said it would be disheartening but not surprising to see Congress step in to resolve contract disputes before the strike deadline next Friday. When reached, parliamentarians have made a habit of stepping in and imposing contracts. Count of the United States Chamber of Commerce — Because of the potential economic impact.

Because many businesses rely on rail to deliver raw materials and transport finished products, a rail strike would have devastating repercussions throughout the economy. Passenger railways would also be confused, as they would use so much track owned by freight railways.

The railroad worker’s five-year contract included a 24% raise and a $5,000 bonus. But concerns about a lack of paid sick leave and tight schedules, which unions said made it difficult for workers to take a day off, dominated contract negotiations. He said he could not get any more concessions from the railroad because the company knew.

railroad Rejected Adding paid sick leave to the contract at the end of three years of negotiations for not wanting to pay more than the special board of arbitrators Biden appointed. Recommended this summer. Moreover, according to the railroad, unions have agreed to forgo paid sick leave for years, in favor of higher wages and strong short-term disability benefits starting just four days later. I’m here.

the railroad agreed to provide three days without pay For engineers and conductors to attend to medical needs as long as they are scheduled at least 30 days in advance. They also pledged to negotiate more to improve how they schedule regular holidays so that workers can better know when they are off.

But for retired engineer Jeff Kurtz, he still has a lot of work to do to regain the quality of life he enjoyed before leaving the railroad eight years ago. He believes that today’s railroad workers can take short breaks for important family events, like when he found out just before Christmas 2009 that his son was getting a Ph.D. I don’t think

“I hear that if you hire someone in a railroad company, you miss out on something. said Kurtz. “We can’t afford to miss the growth of our children. We can’t afford to miss important moments in our family’s life.”

Over the past six years, major rail companies have cut jobs by nearly a third. Operations overhauledmaking the job more demanding for those who remain.

The union has said it won’t stop fighting to increase paid sick leave, but may have to wait for negotiations on the next contract to begin in 2025.

Ian Jeffries, chairman of the American Railroad Association’s trade group, acknowledged that “more work needs to be done to further address concerns about employee work-life balance,” but the congressional-imposed compromise , said it should help schedule more. Predictable while delivering the biggest pay raises rail workers have seen in over 40 years.