victory for rail workers us railroads mandate paid sick leave after intense labour negotiations
The railroads in the US received harsh criticisms last year when they refused to provide paid sick leave for workers during labour negotiations. However, the situation has finally improved due to a recent significant development as the House of Representatives voted to approve a bill to combat a potential rail strike and provide paid sick leaves to workers. Consequently, more than 60% of unionized railroad workers are now covered under the policy granting paid sick leaves. Let’s explore how the railroad workers brought about these historic changes.
In late 2022, labour negotiations highlighted the discontent among railroad workers due to the unavailability of paid sick leaves. The issue quickly garnered public support, pressuring the railroads to deal with the problems the workers and their unions raised urgently. Ian Jeffries, the CEO of the Association of American Railroads, soon acknowledged the importance of the human rights of the workers and said that negotiations were being undertaken to resolve this issue.
The contributions of a few Union officials and members of the Biden administration, like transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg and former labour secretary Marty Walsh, are particularly noteworthy in this aspect. Such officials actively lobbied that being denied paid sick leaves were unjust and such government intervention was beneficial to make the voices of the Union heard at the negotiation table.
The situation grew so intense with the time that the US was close to the possibility of a nationwide railroad strike. To avert this situation, major freight rails companies like CSX, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and BNSF, which collectively employ around 9300 railroad workers, reached individual agreements with their respective unions to grant paid sick leaves. According to these agreements, workers now exercise the right to four paid sick leaves per year and can use three additional paid sick leaves from personal days.
This breakthrough was a welcome move and was considered a significant victory by railroad workers after years of advocating for paid sick leaves. President of the Transportation Communications Union, Artie Maratea, expressed his satisfaction and highlighted the positive impact of political and public pressure to achieve favourable outcomes. Railroad workers no longer have to sacrifice their health and well-being in fear of financial loss.
As of May 24, 2023, over half of all craft employees in the field, representing about 57% of the workforce, are covered under the new paid sick leave policy. Before the implementation of the agreements, railroad workers were not allowed to call in sick on the day of their shift. However, companies like CSX, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and BNSF now enable unionized employees to access paid sick leaves.
This is nothing short of a significant victory for railroad workers in the US who relentlessly fought for this benefit. Public and political pressure was crucial in arriving at this milestone concerning this long-standing issue. Railroad workers have enhanced job security, work-life balance, and general well-being. Collective action goes a long way in workers’ advocacy; this incident is a testament to that.