Railroad workers speak out after Biden forced unions to accept deal: 'He turned his back'

Railroad workers speak out after Biden forced unions to accept deal: ‘He turned his back’

Railroad workers are speaking out after Congress voted last week to avert an industry strike that could have had catastrophic economic consequences.

BNSF railroad conductor Justin Schaaf told The Associated Press he had to choose between having a cavity filled or attending his son’s 7th birthday party.

“In the end, I decided to take the day off for my child’s birthday party,” he said. “Then when I can finally go to the dentist four, five, six months later, the tooth is too bad to fix at that point, so I have to have the tooth pulled.”

Schaaf said if he had the option of taking a sick day, he “never would have been in this situation” and said the recent actions of Congress were disheartening but not surprising.


On Friday, President Biden signed bipartisan legislation, praising lawmakers for helping to avert “what could have been a real disaster.”

The President acknowledged that more work needs to be done.

“Look, I know this bill doesn’t have paid sick leave, which these railroad workers and, frankly, all working Americans deserve. But this fight isn’t over,” he said. .

A worker climbs a car at a BNSF crossing

FILE – A worker drives a rail car at a BNSF crossing in Saginaw, Texas, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File/AP Newsroom)

Truck mechanic Reece Murtagh was more blunt, telling CNN on Friday that union workers’ collective bargaining rights had been “trampled upon.”

“Their voice was not heard, they voted against the contract,” Murtagh said. “We have a pro-Labour chairman who likes to, you know, pat himself on the back for that, and when the going got tough he turned his back on the people he’s supposed to watch over.”

The newly enacted law codifies a July agreement brokered by railroad unions and the administration that would raise workers’ wages by 24% over a five-year period from 2020 to 2024, including an immediate payment on average of 11 $000 upon ratification.

The agreement passed by Congress was endorsed by eight of the 12 transport unions involved in the negotiations.

The four breakaway unions said the deal was unfair because it did not provide enough paid sick leave. They had requested seven paid sick days, but Congress did not include their request in the bill, despite an effort by progressive lawmakers and even some conservatives to change the legislation.

Biden defended the contract, citing salary increases.

“What was negotiated was so much better than anything they had ever had,” he said during a press briefing with French President Emmanuel Macron.

President Joe Biden

President Biden signs HJRes.100, a bill that aims to avert a rail freight strike, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Newsroom)


Railroad unions said they were unable to get more concessions from the railroads because big business knew Congress would intervene and the railroads refused to add furloughs illness paid at the agreement because they did not want to pay much more than a special advice. arbitrators appointed by Biden recommended this summer.

In addition, the railroads said unions have agreed over the years to forego paid sick leave in favor of higher wages and strong short-term disability benefits.

A locomotive driver

FILE – A locomotive engineer is seen as a locomotive engine pulls into the Selkirk Yard on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022 in Selkirk, NY ((AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)/AP Newsroom)

The railroads agreed to offer engineers and conductors three unpaid days to meet medical needs as long as they are scheduled at least 30 days in advance and promised to negotiate more.

Association of American Railroads trade group chief Ian Jefferies acknowledged that more needs to be done, but said compromise agreements should help make schedules more predictable while offering the most increases important that railway workers have known for more than four decades.

Workers and their unions say the agreement has not done enough to address quality of life concerns.

A CSX freight train crosses a level crossing

FILE – A CSX freight train travels through a level crossing in Homestead, Pennsylvania September 14, 2022. ((AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)/AP Newsroom)


“You hear that when you rent on the railroad, you’re going to miss some things. But you’re not supposed to miss everything,” said retired engineer Jeff Kurtz, who remains active even in retirement with the Railroad Workers United coalition. “You shouldn’t miss your children growing up. You shouldn’t miss the defining moments of your family’s life.”

Chris Pandolfo of FOX Business and Associated Press contributed to this report.

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