Rail & Labor News from RWU
Weekly Digest Number 44 - November 1st, 2022
Welcome to the RWU Rail & Labor News! This news bulletin is produced and emailed out each Tuesday morning. We hope you find each week's news and information useful. If so, please share with co-workers, friends, and colleagues. If you like, you can sign them up to get all the news from RWU HERE. Or forward them the link. Note: If you read over this news bulletin each week, you will be sure to never miss the important news of what is going on in the railroad world from a worker's perspective!
(Editor's Note: Railroaders invite all of our fellow workers along the supply chain, workers in other industries, friends and allies to join us for an evening of discussion of ways of building solidarity and support for the struggle of railroad workers and others, as we build and grow the new labor movement from the bottom up!)
Railroad Worker Solidarity Mass Meeting Tuesday
Tuesday, November 1
We, railroad workers, are currently engaged in one of the most important struggles in recent labor history, in an industry that is at the heart of the functioning of society. The rail industry has seen massive deregulation, lean production, and persistent undermining of working conditions that have made the work all but intolerable. Worsening conditions is something that is being felt in all sectors and industries for working people!
Despite enormous political pressure, we remain fed up, evidenced by the sections of workers who are voting NO on a Tentative Agreement that they feel doesn't address the basic quality of life issues, issues they are apparently willing to strike over. To date, 3 unions representing 30% of rail labor have voted down the contract, while 6 unions represetning jst 20% of rail labor have accepted it. Our organization, Railroad Workers United (RWU), a cross-craft grouping of rails that first came together in 2008, composed of railroad workers from all unions and all crafts has launched a Vote No Campaign, insisting that this Tentative Agreement offers very little given the conditions we face and the role we play in the economy. If railroad workers strike, it will have immediate implications - economically and politically - for every sector of US society, and most importantly for the labor movement and the working class as a whole. 
Featuring: Working Railroaders from various crafts/unions. Facilitated by Max Alvarez from The Real News who has covered this struggle extensively this past year. Please Come and hear our members speak about the struggle, the situation on the rails, and how you can get involved in efforts to support our efforts!
(Editor's Note: Right now, unions representing 30% of rail labor have rejected the contract. Unions representing 20% have voted to ratify. The operating crafts - representing the remaining 50% are expected to vote it down later in the month. So as a result, a national strike - while not inevitable - remains quite possible.)
Get Ready for the First U.S. Railroad Strike in Three Decades: Analysis

Two unions' rejection of tentative contract deals make it more likely that engineers' and conductors' unions will vote no, too, increasing the prospect of a strike
A U.S. railroad strike now seems inevitable. The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen overwhelmingly rejected their tentative contract agreement with the railroads this week, following in the footsteps of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, who turned down their deal earlier this month.
This makes it almost certain that the rank-and-file members of the two largest rail unions — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART-TD union that represents conductors — will vote down their proposed contracts as well. They’re now due to release the results of their ballots on Nov. 21.
The unions and the Class I railroads will then head back to the bargaining table. But don’t bet on the two sides reaching a negotiated settlement.
The National Carriers’ Conference Committee last week flatly told the BWMED that the railroads would not accept the union’s proposal for additional paid sick time. “The latest BMWED request for additional benefits is similar to a proposal which was carefully considered and rejected by President Biden’s Presidential Emergency Board and comes weeks after the union entered into a tentative agreement that included the most generous wage package in almost 50 years of national rail negotiations,” the NCCC said in a statement.
In other words, the railroads aren’t willing to budge. And neither are the unions. Their rejection of the tentative agreements is more about quality of life and working conditions than it is about money. That should be obvious to anyone who has paid attention to railroaders’ complaints about longer shifts, more time spent away from home, fewer opportunities to take time off, and schedules that are more unpredictable than ever.
The conventional wisdom has been that there won’t be a strike and if there was one its duration would be measured in hours rather than days because Congress would step in right away.
But that view ignores changes that have occurred since the last strike in 1992. First, the railroader mood has darkened in the wake of the massive cutbacks made as CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific adopted Precision Scheduled Railroading and BNSF Railway began running a leaner operation, too. Second, railroads are far more profitable now — and many employees feel the record profits have come partly at their expense. Third, Washington is more dysfunctional than ever, and in today’s hyper-partisan atmosphere Congress doesn’t do anything quickly and rarely does anything right.
A strike isn’t imminent. The status quo period for BMWED will expire on Nov. 19 and for BRS on Dec. 4, according to the Railway Labor Conference. If the operating craft agreements fail to ratify when the votes are counted on Nov. 21, they have a status quo period extension that would run into December.
But if efforts with any one union fail, then a strike or lockout would occur. It’s just a question of when and how long it would last. Freight would stop moving, as would most Amtrak service and commuter train operations in many metropolitan areas.
Shipper groups have already asked the White House to intervene, as the Biden administration did to avert a strike only hours before a September deadline. As negotiations approach the December deadline, expect shippers to divert freight to highways and for BNSF, CSX, NS, and UP to begin to embargo certain types of traffic, such as hazardous materials.
The railroads and unions are heading toward a high-stakes game of chicken at a time when the labor-management relationship is at its lowest point in decades. It’s unclear which side will blink first.
What is clear is that a strike or lockout will be massively disruptive to railroads, their employees, shippers, and an economy that’s already softening and suffering from supply chain problems. Buckle up: the next few weeks could be a wild ride.

(Editor's Note: Longtime railroad worker and current RWU Treasurer Hugh Sawyer is quoted at length in this in depth piece from one of the country's oldest pro-labor publications, The Progressive.)
‘The Economy Breaks Down on Day One of a Rail Strike’
In mid-September, the nation’s railway carriers were locked in tense negotiations with several rail labor unions, and a rail strike—a potential economic catastrophe for the country and global supply chains—loomed on the horizon. 
In the final days before the strike deadline, the Department of Labor intervened through an arbitration process under an emergency panel commissioned by the White House. An eleventh-hour tentative agreement emerged days later, narrowly averting a work stoppage for SMART Transportation Division, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, which represent about 60,000 workers together (several other rail unions had negotiated similar contract proposals earlier). But the rail workers still have a long way to go in their struggle for a fair contract; many workers are unsatisfied with the proposed agreement and say they will vote it down, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen voted October 26 to reject the proposed deal.
The main frustrations workers have commonly expressed center largely around a stressful on-call scheduling system; many say unpredictable schedules, combined with understaffing, undermine their family lives and make it difficult even to take sick leave without being penalized. 
Railroad Workers United, a rank-and-file group representing workers from multiple unions and trades in the industry, has urged members to vote down the tentative agreement, stating that it “does nothing to address nor rectify the underlying causes of worker disillusionment and dissatisfaction with their working conditions. Short staffing, long hours, harsh attendance policies, poor scheduling practices, a lack of time off work, and a generally inferior quality of work life would continue under this contract if ratified.” 
Last month, I spoke with Hugh Sawyer, a thirty-four-year veteran train engineer based in the Atlanta area, and treasurer of Railroad Workers United, about the working conditions that have been a perpetual source of stress and outrage for many rail workers. He explained that as part of a “pool,” a system of distributing jobs on an ad-hoc basis, he is “on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.” While federal labor laws require that he get forty-eight hours rest after every six straight days of work, Sawyer is always subject to being called up, even on an assigned off day. 

(Editor's Note: The Signalmen's vote on the deal is telling. One can only surmise that the engineers' and conductors' response to the deal brokered on September 15th will likewise be hostile. If the White House feels a strike is "completely unacceptable," then the the President best apply pressure upon the Class One railroads to stop the BS and do the right thing.)
White House Reacts to Signalmen’s Union Rejection of New Contract

Press secretary calls possible strike ‘completely unacceptable’
WASHINGTON — Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that the Biden Administration “is in regular contact” with the two sides in the ongoing dispute and negotiations between railroads and their unions, but that she did not have anything to share about President Joe Biden’s “involvement specifically with the parties.”
During a press briefing at the White House, Jean-Pierre was asked about administration reaction to the news that Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen had voted down its tentative contract agreement [see “Signalmen’s union rejects contract …,” Trains News Wire, Oct. 26, 2022] and whether the White House was concerned a rail strike was ahead.
“As the President has said for months, any shutdown would be completely unacceptable,” Jean-Pierre said. “ It is the responsibility of the parties involved to resolve this issue. And that … any idea that kicking this to Congress will result in a quick or favorable outcome is just deeply misguided. That is our view from here.
“These unions’ rejection of the current proposed contract does not mean we face an immediate rail shutdown. That’s not how we view it. But it does mean that the union and the employers have additional work to do. …
“We stand ready, as we did earlier this year, to support the parties in their efforts. We continue to urge both sides to work in good faith and avoid even the threat of a shutdown. We remain laser-focused, as before, on taking any appropriate steps to ensure that America’s rail system keeps moving so our families don’t have to suffer from this.
“We continue to urge, again, both sides … to really operate in good faith.”

(Editor's Note: Service continues to be well below par, while carloads moved continues to decline. STB should continue to monitor the Class Ones indefinitely.)
Regulators, Concerned About Service, Order Big Four U.S. Railroads to Continue to Provide Detailed Performance Data

Surface Transportation Board notes progress railroads have made toward performance goals, but is concerned service has not returned to pre-pandemic levels
WASHINGTON — Citing ongoing service problems at the big four U.S. Class I railroads, federal regulators today ordered BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern, and Union Pacific to continue reporting expanded performance metrics for an additional six months.
The Surface Transportation Board in May ordered all Class I systems to provide weekly reports that cover metrics such as on-time performance, local service data, and the level of unplanned recrews for six months. To monitor the extent of the crew shortages that have created service problems, the board also ordered the railroads to provide monthly employment reports.
The big four U.S. systems also were required to submit operational performance goals as well as biweekly reports noting their progress toward those targets.
“The most recent data show that the Four Carriers are currently meeting some of their six-month targets for service improvement, and many key performance indicators are trending in a positive direction,” the STB said in its decision today. “However, the data continue to validate the anecdotal information that continues to be reported to the Board regarding significant service issues. Key performance indicators, such as velocity, terminal dwell, first-mile/last-mile service … operating inventory, and trip plan compliance show that railroad operations remain challenged generally, and particularly when compared to pre-pandemic 2019 levels. Accordingly, continued monitoring is needed.”
The expanded reporting requirement will run until May 5 and mandate that the railroads submit new performance goals for May 2023.

(Editor's Note: New BMWED President Tony Cardwell is all over the place. First trying to sell his members on the TA, now standing up defiantly to that same TA now that the ranks have voted it down. He is apparently a Republican, but has lauded President Biden for his efforts to broker the TA back in September.)
BMWED’s Response to NCCC’s Rejection of Paid Sick Time (Class 1 Freight Negotiations)
The National Carriers Conference Committee did not mention the primary reason it is opposed to paid sick time off for its Union-represented employees. The precision scheduled railroading business model is largely driven by reduced operating ratio or leanness. To hit profit benchmarks and earn bonuses, management is required to trim workforce as tight as possible. 
Currently, the railroads are all experiencing difficulties with on-time delivery of goods. This is not conjecture. There are frequent complaints from shippers and there was a prominent federal hearing on the matter just this spring in front of the Surface Transportation Board, which has now ordered the Class I’s to report on improvements to service and efforts to increase their workforces.
To hit the numbers required by PSR, the railroads had to maximize all efficiencies. One such efficiency is manpower. Do more with less. That involves keeping the number of employees low, but that means there is no capacity for absorbing reasonably expected absences. As a result, the railroads want all workers to be available to work as much as possible because if someone takes off for an illness or a medical appointment, there is no one to cover for them.
But eventually you must pay the piper. And here we are, staring at a contentious bargaining round between the railroads with their continued record profitability, and the workers they employ – beleaguered, exhausted, and scraped to the bone. Yet again, the carriers have placed their greed above the health and well-being of the men and women they employ.

(Editor's Note: These industries all need to take their cue from the Chemical shippers group - see RWU Rail & Labor News Week #43 - and tell the rail carriers to do the right thing by their employees. They should be demanding that Biden apply pressure on the carriers to agree to sick time for all rail employees. Period.)
Business Groups Ask Biden to Intervene in Rail Labor Negotiations
A coalition of hundreds of business groups representing a wide range of industries has signed a letter asking President Joe Biden to help keep railroads and labor unions at the bargaining table to avoid a potential freight-rail strike.
The businesses are growing increasingly concerned that all 12 unions involved in negotiating a new contract with the nation’s major freight railroads will fail to approve a tentative agreement that negotiators reached Sept. 15.
The tentative agreement followed the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board that Biden established in July. 
Although six labor unions have voted to ratify the pact, two unions — the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the IBT (BMWED) and the Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen — voted this month to reject it, raising concerns that others will follow. 
"If that were to be the case, we could witness a strike that would shut down the entire freight-rail system," according to the letter, a copy of which was made public by the American Chemistry Council (ACC). "Because the White House played such a central role in the process, we believe it can be helpful in continuing to move the process forward in a positive direction."
All 12 unions have to ratify the agreement for it to take effect. 
"The stakes are very high for the chemical industry since our members rely on freight rail and they will be one of the first industries impacted if the threat of a potential strike grows and forces railroads to scale back service," ACC officials said in a press release. The ACC is among the trade groups that signed the letter to Biden.
Leaders of the two unions that rejected the tentative agreement have said members who voted "no" are concerned about it lacking paid sick time.

(Editor's Note: The financial news for Q3 is off the charts. How these people can announce these kind of numbers with a straight face while they play hardball with their employees is truly impressive.... Oh and just how much of this unconscionable price gouging is driving current inflation levels is hard to say.)
NS Sets Revenue, Earnings and Income Records in Q3
Norfolk Southern Railway today announced its third-quarter financial results include new records for operating revenue, operating income, net income and diluted earnings per share. 
The Class I reported Q3 net income soared 27% to $958 million, or $4.10 diluted earnings per share, from $753 million, or $3.06 per diluted EPS, in the same period a year ago. Railway operating revenue of $3.3 billion reached an all-time quarterly record and climbed 17%.
The revenue gain was driven by a 20% increase in revenue per unit due to higher fuel surcharges and pricing, NS officials said in a press release. Income from operations totaled a record $1.3 billion, up 12%.

CN's Q3: New Revenue, Operating Income Records
CN yesterday reported record third-quarter revenue of CA$4.5 billion, a 26% increase, and record operating income of CA$1.9 billion, a 44% increase from results in the same period a year ago.
The Class I attributed the revenue gain mainly to higher fuel surcharge revenue driven by higher fuel prices, freight rate increases, higher Canadian export volumes of coal via West Coast ports, greater volumes of U.S. grain and the positive translation impact of a weaker Canadian dollar. 
The company reported diluted earnings per share of CA$2.13, a 10% decrease caused primarily by a merger termination fee received in Q3 2021. However, on an adjusted basis, the diluted earnings per share climbed 40%, which represents a quarterly record.

(Editor's Note: Some good news here for Amtrak, but only if CP is allowed to aquire KCS and only if the Class One does not renege on agreements once the merger is consummated.)
CP Agrees to Back Amtrak Expansion Plans
Canadian Pacific has agreed to back Amtrak's efforts to work with other states and stakeholders on its plan to expand and enhance intercity passenger-rail service in several locations, according to Amtrak's final brief on the proposed merger between CP and Kansas City Southern.
Amtrak was one of numerous parties that submitted briefs last week to the Surface Transportation Board, which is considering whether to approve the proposed CP-KCS merger. Amtrak is asking the STB to approve the merger on the condition that CP follows through with a number of commitments made to Amtrak.
In its brief, Amtrak describes CP as a "reliable partner in working with Amtrak to provide safe, efficient and effective passenger-rail services." CP has committed to Amtrak that the merger would not cause Amtrak trains to operate below on-time performance standards on CP-KCS lines, Amtrak's brief states. 
CP also agreed to allow Amtrak to add additional or new service:
• on the CP-owned portion of the Hiawatha route between Chicago and Milwaukee;
• between Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, on lines owned by CP; 
• between New Orleans (IC Junction) and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on a KCS line; and 
• via CP's Detroit River Tunnel between Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, to connect with VIA Rail Canada.

Canada's Transportation Safety Board releases 2022 'Watchlist'
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) this week released its Watchlist 2022 that highlights transportation safety issues that the board wants government regulators and industry stakeholders to address.
The watchlist highlights five rail-related issues: uncontrolled movements; following railway signal indications; fatigue; safety management and regulatory surveillance. The TSB chose those issues as a result of hundreds of investigations and data findings, board officials said in a press release.
Uncontrolled movements of railway equipment can create high-risk situations with catastrophic consequences, especially when carrying dangerous goods. Between 2010 and 2021, the number of uncontrolled movements did not show a downward trend, board officials said.
Train crews have also shown an inability to consistently recognize and follow railway signals, which could result in a collision or derailment. Between 1990 and 2021, TSB investigated 80 incidents that could have been prevented using a physical fail-safe mechanism, like enhanced train control.
Transportation industry companies also have demonstrated ineffective management of worker fatigue and safety, especially when it comes to the handling of hazardous materials by rail, TSB officials said. Those issues pose significant risks to industry safety because the potential degradation of human performance could cause a derailment or collision.

(Editor's Note: A record number of public comments have been rolling in. Now FRA plans a public hearing. RWU will be there full throttle. We urge all rail workers to get on the docket and take part as well. Let your voices be hears!)
FRA Sets Hearing on Two-Person Train Crew Rule
The Federal Railroad Administration yesterday announced it will hold a hearing Dec. 14 to accept public comments on its proposed rulemaking that would establish minimum safety requirements for the size of train crews.
The hearing will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Eastern time) in Washington, D.C., and through at least one internet link, the FRA said in a notice published in the Federal Register.
In addition, the FRA said it will extend to Dec. 21 the public comment period on the proposed rule. This is the FRA's second extension of the comment period.
In late July, the FRA proposed the rule to require a minimum of two crew members on trains. The rule includes exceptions for operations that do not pose significant safety risks to railroad workers, the public or environment.
The FRA proposed the rule to improve rail safety nationwide, U.S. Department of Transportation officials have said.

(Editor's Note: It is great to see some of these big CREATE projects finally moving forward to get the chronic rail congestion in Chicago alleviated. But one cannot help but wonder why the taxpayers must pay for these invaluable projects when the rail industry continues to rake in record profits. One more reason that the rail industry should and must be publicly owned. If we have to subsidize it to make it function properly, we should own it. See the RWU Resolution Here.)
Largest CREATE Rail Project Now in Motion
The groundbreaking also kicked off construction of the 71st Street Grade Separation (GS19) project, which will eliminate an existing grade crossing of the CSX railroad with 71st Street, improving safety and convenience for community members including pedestrians, bicyclists, and local drivers. These projects also are the first two components out of four major projects that will be implemented as part of the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project (75th St. CIP). 
The estimated total cost for the Forest Hill Flyover and 71st Street Grade Separation projects is $380 million. In 2018, the U.S. DOT awarded $132 million to the CREATE Program partners through the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program for the 75th Street Corridor Improvement and Argo Connections (B9) projects. The federal investment, combined with $260 million in state, local, and private funding, will support the construction of the Forest Hill Flyover (P3) and 71st Street Grade Separation (GS19) projects.  

(Editor's Note: Working people are on the move, many of them inspired by the resistance that railroad workers have shown these last few months which have made national news. We inspire them, and in turn they inspire us!)
Amazon Workers At SIX Facilities Stage Mass Walkout
Amazon workers at 6 facilities in 3 states walked out on Prime Day. All the workers had previously taken collective action to demand better pay & conditions, but were met with few to no changes. So they staged one of the first coordinated, multi-state walkouts at Amazon.
Man Killed in Texas Railcar Accident
BEAUMONT, Texas — A 66-year-old Beaumont man has died in what is being described as “a railcar accident” at an ExxonMobil plant in Beaumont on Friday.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said it has ordered an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death for Richard Garza, a contractor at the plant. No other information on the nature of the accident has been reported.
The National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Railroad Administration, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating.