This week, railroad executives were ready to shut down service and destroy our economy even more than it’s already suffered from the pandemic over the union’s demand for better workplace attendance policies. You read that right. They weren’t willing to budge on the request that workers not be penalized for going to the doctor.
It’s a sick world we live in when an industry that has more than doubled its profit margin over the last 20 years is willing to cripple the economy because they are unwilling to accept the union’s demand for better quality of life for its workers.
Finally, it feels like the power pendulum is finally swinging pack to the people. I’m still praying for a better future.
Twenty years ago, the four leading American freight carriers — SX, KC Southern, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific — earned average operating margins of about 15 percent. Now, their margins are closer to 40 percent. Twenty years ago, the four railroads spent some $8.7 billion on worker compensation and benefits to generate $25.6 billion. Twenty years later, they spent about 10 percent more on worker compensation and labor — but their revenue has nearly doubled.Why a rail strike? Freight railroads have never been as profitable. Why can’t they treat their workers better?, Robert Reich
Yet railroad executives won’t budge on a workplace attendance policy that can only be described as draconian.
“Most importantly, for the first time ever, the agreement provides our members with the ability to take time away from work to attend routine and preventative medical, as well as exemptions from attendance policies for hospitalizations and surgical procedures,” the presidents of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers said in a news release.Railroad Unions and Companies Reach a Tentative Deal to Avoid a Strike, New York Times
What was the dispute between railroads and unions about?What We Know About the Railroad Labor Deal, New York Times
The two main sticking points were over-scheduling and sick time. The railroad companies had been unwilling to agree to labor groups’ request that workers be able to see a doctor or attend to a personal matter without risking disciplinary action. Union representatives also said that workers often have long shifts scheduled on short notice.