Rail & Labor News from RWU
Weekly Digest Number 28 - July 12th, 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: Our friends at The Real News have written quite the damning piece here. At the RWU Convention and Labor Notes conference in June we had the chance to meet and chat with some of these fine journalists.)
Corporate Billionaires are Wrecking the Supply Chain: Just look at the Railroads

Draconian labor policies, “cost-cutting” measures, and mass layoffs are decimating US railroad workers for the sake of corporate profits
Before these past two years, if you were polling passersby on the street, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone ready to admit that they were seriously concerned about the supply chain. You’d be hard pressed, for that matter, to find many who could describe what the supply chain actually is (present company included). That is certainly not the case today. From shortages—and correspondingly high costs—of groceries and consumer goods like baby formula and sunflower oil to medical devices, “supply chain issues” have become a pronounced source of anxiety and frustration for consumers, workers, businesses, and politicians alike. 
“The supply chain is in chaos,” Will Knight wrote for WIRED in late March, “and it’s getting worse.” Unsurprisingly, however, the pain resulting from that chaos—like most things in this world—is not evenly distributed. As the economy contracts, inflation continues to skyrocket, and Wall Street tucks tail and runs, everyday workers are the ones left holding the bag. 
The supply chain is a lot like the cardiovascular system of global commerce, a vast pulsing web of innumerable veins, arteries, and capillaries connecting points of extraction, production, and trade to points of sale around the world. Moving through that web at any given time is a dizzying menagerie of trains, trucks, ships, and planes transporting raw materials and finished goods.
Much like with the human body itself, the sheer logistics keeping such a complex system moving seamlessly are mind boggling, and when blockages and breakdowns occur at any point, the rest of the system is affected. Each prong and node of the supply chain infrastructure, and every individual process of transporting cargo units—containers coming and going at the ports, freight loaded onto trucks and trains—must work in tandem with one another to prevent disruptions. If movement at one node slows down, it starts a chain reaction across the entire system, and it becomes increasingly more difficult to right the ship (sometimes literally) when things begin to break down. 

(Editor's Note: None of this comes as a surprise to U.S. railroad workers who deal with these endless delays, extended working hours, expirations on the hours-of-service law, train re-crews, lack of time off work, no set schedules, family hardship, low workplace morale and chronic fatigue.)
U.S. Rail System Still Deteriorating, On Balance
We’re now in the second half of 2022, when the four major U.S. Class I’s have committed to turning their operations around, but the current state of play is not encouraging. Only Union Pacific has made any progress in recent months, but that has been from a low base and fading somewhat over the past two weeks. We would regard UP and Norfolk Southern as now in a “steady state” and it’s the other two we’re more worried about in terms of trajectory.
BNSF’s intermodal business, in particular, is really struggling and in no shape to handle peak season volumes, which typically start around mid-August. Last week, BNSF Intermodal hit new lows in terms of network velocity (28.9 mph vs. 32.3 average in 2021) and on-time performance (only 57% of containers deramped within 24-hours of schedule), and a new high in terms of intermodal cars sitting idle for 48-hours or longer (1,610 out of 19,969 intermodal cars-on-line). To be fair, weather and other external factors had an impact. More broadly, the full system has seen record trains holding for crews over the last six weeks and a high in recrews to 1,789 at a recrew rate of 13.4% last week.
Over in the east, CSX is coming off two bad weeks, recording multi-year lows in velocity and multi-year highs in trains holding for crews, terminal dwell, and the proportion of cars-online sitting idle for 48 hours or more. Last week on-time performance in its manifest network hit a new record low of 64%.

(Editor's Note: There is a rank and file revolt out there. Rail workers are speaking to the the media, conducting interviews, providing testimony, writing articles, holding rallies and demonstrations, and making home-made videos. We are witnessing the beginnings of a movement. This uptick in activity should be lauded and supported by all rail workers and their union officials. Below is one example of a video that has been broadly viewed and creating a stir.
This Company is Quietly Creating Diesel Exhaust Fluid Shortages in America ...
The largest producer in the country ships 74% of its product via Union Pacific Railroad. Each railcar carries enough DEF to travel 5 million truck miles. In April, this shipper was threatened with embargo if they did not reduce their carloads by up to 50%. Relentless cuts to the network have reduced capacity so that nearly every train is delayed, underpowered, and understaffed. Getting rid of customers was their acceptable solution. They paid out 11 billion in buybacks and dividends last year. Very little is ever spent on the railroad itself. Without reliable DEF distribution, everything you need from trucks becomes scarcer, less reliable, and more expensive. But Wall Street got their cut ...
(Editor's Note: - This is the third threatened rail strike in Canada this year. The TCRC gave strike notice to CP, the IBEW stuck CN, and now UNIFOR is poised to strike at VIA. Railroad workers in the UK and France went on strike in recent weeks. Is this strike wave going to catch on in the U.S.?)
Strike Deadline for Via Rail Workers Extended Again as Unifor Continues Negotiations
Unifor says it has again pushed back the deadline for a strike by Via Rail workers that could lead to the immediate suspension of rail services across Canada.
The union says in a statement on social media that the strike deadline is now 6 p.m. eastern Monday, two hours later than the 4 p.m. time it had pushed it back to on Sunday. 
It says "talks continue" and will provide updates as they come in. Unifor initially issued a 72-hour strike notice to the national rail carrier on Friday, indicating 2,400 employees were prepared to walk off the job if a new contract could not be negotiated by 12:01 a.m. on Monday. 
A strike would see maintenance workers, on-board service personnel, chefs, sales agents and customer service staff all hit the picket line and force Via to pause services across the country. 
Unifor's national secretary-treasurer said in Sunday's statement that its bargaining committees are "steadfast" in pursuing a deal that "respects and values" workers. Unifor said job security was the main issue on the table during labour negotiations. 

(Editor's Note: Sadly, another union has accepted arbitration. Perhaps if the rail unions in Canada - UNIFOR, IBEW, TCRC, USWA, etc - were to come together as one, then they could have the power to win these strike outright. At its very best, arbitration will only result in partial victory.)
IBEW Members Accept Arbitration, End Strike Against CN in Canada
MONTREAL — The strike in Canada by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers against Canadian National Railway has ended.
CN announced Monday that the union, which represents about 750 signal and communications workers, has agreed to binding arbitration, bringing an end to the strike at 12:01 a.m. EDT today (July 5, 2022). Those workers will return to their regular jobs at 7 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 6.
The IBEW members had gone on strike on June 18 after providing the required 72-hour strike notice [see “Signal, communications workers begin strike …,” Trains News Wire, June 20, 2022]. CN had said it was able to maintain normal operations during the walkout.

(Editor's Note: While there are some hopeful signs, all-in-all the outlook is bleak. New employees are leaving as fast as the carriers can recruit new ones to take their place. And let's face it - would you want to quit your current job in order to hire into a railroad Conductor trainee job .. that the carriers have publicly stated they aim to eliminate if they get their way in bargaining with the union?)
Will Rail Service Improve in 2nd Half of 2022?
The number of intermodal and manifest trains held per week has increased
The second half of 2022 is underway, and freight rail stakeholders will be watching over the next several weeks and months how the railroads untangle service issues that seemed to be persisting through June, according to data submitted to the Surface Transportation Board from the four big U.S. Class I railroads: BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B), Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP), CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) and Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC).
The rails have been under fire in recent months from regulators, shippers and even members of Congress for deteriorating rail service in the first and second quarters of this year. COVID-19-induced absences, along with spates of bad weather and port congestion, have contributed to the subpar service. Shippers and rail unions also say that deteriorating service occurred because the Class I railroads cut headcount and power resources too deeply while implementing precision scheduled railroading, a method that aims to streamline operations.
STB in April held a two-day hearing to examine potential root causes of this year’s service issues, while members of both the House and Senate recently have urged the board to respond to ongoing service issues.
For instance, the number of intermodal trains that were held per week on average appears to be higher than the pre-pandemic summer of 2019 and are roughly at level with June 2021 — another month of reported freight rail service issues
Meanwhile, the number of manifest trains that were held per week on average is roughly higher compared with the same time a year ago.

STB Directs Union Pacific to Continue Operating Under Emergency Service Order
WASHINGTON — The Surface Transportation Board has directed Union Pacific to continue providing priority service and reports on that service for a California feed and poultry company under an emergency order issued in June.
In a ruling Friday, the board ordered that while subsequent UP service has mitigated the “dire emergency” faced by Foster Farms facilities in Turlock and Traver, Calif., the facilities are still at risk because their stocks are not fully replenished. It therefore directed UP to continue operating under the emergency service order through July 17 — the remainder of the 30-day period under the original order — as requested by Foster Farms on June 28.
The board issued the original order on June 17, after Foster Farms said issues in receiving scheduled unit trains of corn meant “millions of chickens would be killed and other livestock will suffer” [see “Union Pacific hit with STB emergency service order,” Trains News Wire, June 17, 2022].
That order required UP to carry out “specific commitments of service for loaded and empty train sets,” make daily status reports, hold weekly conferences with STB staff, and inform Foster Farms in writing if it had to deviate from its service plans. All those steps will continue.

(Editor's Note: With more and more public and Class One carrier opposition, and with the entire rail industry in free fall, what seemed like a done deal - the CP+ KCS merger - might just not happen after all. Stay tuned.)
Federal Regulators to Look at CN, NS Requests for Conditions on CP-KCS Merger
WASHINGTON — As part of their review of the Canadian Pacific-Kansas City Southern merger, federal regulators will consider requests for conditions from Canadian National and Norfolk Southern.
CN has asked the board to force CP to divest KCS’s former Gateway Western lines linking Springfield, Ill., with Kansas City and St. Louis. This would allow CN to create a new single-line service route between Eastern Canada, Detroit, and Kansas City.
CN says it would invest $250 million on the line and would ultimately divert 80,000 truckloads to intermodal annually. CN also requested short segments of trackage rights on KCS, particularly to reach its intermodal terminal just south of Kansas City.
NS has asked the board to impose various conditions that would protect its intermodal service on the NS-KCS Meridian Speedway joint venture.
The merger threatens to degrade intermodal service on the Meridian Speedway that serves as a shortcut between the Southeast and Southwest, NS told federal regulators last month.

TTD to STB: ‘Expand Reporting Requirements to Address Self-Inflicted Service Cuts’
The 37-union-affiliate Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) on July 1 sent a letter to the Surface Transportation Board in response to the agency’s “information collection request” regarding Class I railroad reporting requirements. The letter, signed by TTD President Greg Regan, asks the STB to further increase the already stepped-up reporting requirements to include additional employment data. Following is the letter’s full main text:
As discussed below, while TTD strongly supports the new reporting requirements set forth in the STB decision, TTD requests that additional information be required from Class I railroads to better understand the current rail service conditions and the impact employment decisions are having. Specifically, we request: a narrative description of employment data, employment data reported by craft in addition to job families, and data regarding specific causes for separation.
The STB is proposing reporting requirements for Class I railroads that would include specific performance metrics as well as employment data. These requirements were included in the STB’s recent decision regarding Service Emergency Orders due to an alarming and unmitigated decline in service and working conditions caused by the railroads’ decisions since 2015 to lay off approximately 30% of their workforce in order to maximize short-term profits, instead of prioritizing workforce investments that would ensure the long-term viability of the railroad system. However, the deteriorating rail service conditions necessitate additional data collection in order to identify the root causes of the current service problems.
Despite the STB’s repeated efforts over the past few years to constructively work with the Class I railroads to overcome the challenges to this country’s rail network caused by the

Secrets of a Successful Organizer: July Training Series
Want to bring some energy to your union and turn the tables on management? Want to get together with other workers to learn how to build stronger unions?
Make a commitment build more power at work, and join our organizing series to talk about how to rekindle the flame of rank-and-file militancy. You can register here!
Our Secrets of a Successful Organizer training series has three parts:
  1. Beating Apathy
  2. Assembling Your Dream Team
  3. Turning an Issue into a Campaign
These are based on our widely-acclaimed book, Secrets of a Successful Organizer.
In solidarity,
Barbara and all of us at Labor Notes

Where: Online
When: Wednesdays, July 13, 20, and 27

7:30 - 9:30 pm Eastern - 6:30 - 8:30 pm Central - 5:30 - 7:30pm Mountain - 4:30 - 6:30 pm Pacific

Rail Shippers Call on Biden to Help Class Is, Unions Settle Contract Dispute
A coalition of rail shippers is calling on President Joe Biden to establish a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to help the nation's largest railroads and rail labor groups reach a contract settlement.
In a July 1 letter sent to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, the coalition's representatives expressed concern that without presidential involvement, the stalemate between the railroads and unions could result in a labor strike that would further exacerbate ongoing supply-chain challenges. The coalition represents American agriculture producers, as well as manufacturers, refiners and energy producers.
"As was highlighted by numerous rail shippers in a two-day Surface Transportation Board hearing this past May, the rail network is currently experiencing significant service disruptions. An additional disruption of rail service related to a labor dispute would push an already stressed rail network to the brink and have direct and immediate as well as cascading impacts on the nation’s food, energy, and other vital industrial and consumer supplies and costs," the letter states.
The letter follows the National Mediation Board's recent decision to end the mediation process between the Class Is and major rail unions, which present 115,000 employees.
"Our associations join with others in calling for the appointment of a PEB to conduct hearings and issue settlement recommendations in a timely fashion," the letter states.

(Editor's Note: This is a good synopsis of the ongoing battle in the Gulf between Amtrak on one hand and CSX and NS on the other. If Amtrak emerges victorious, it could have profound ramifications for passengers train expansion and could be the beginning of the end for PSR. If the freight railroads prevail, Amtrak route and frequency expansion could be placed on hold for years.)
The Battle That Will Determine the Future of American Passenger Rail
Months after Washington approved billions to significantly expand Amtrak’s footprint across the country, an early attempt at growth has reached an impasse in a test case that could define the American rail network for a generation. The escalating clash is playing out on the Gulf Coast, where Amtrak wants to restore service 17 years after Hurricane Katrina flooded the region’s rail infrastructure. Amid fanfare over federal money as a president nicknamed “Amtrak Joe” watches from the White House, the passenger rail and the freight railroads that control the tracks are in mediation to resolve disputes over Amtrak’s proposed service levels. At the core of the conflict is a mandate that requires freight railroads to give passenger trains access to rail track and preference over other rail traffic. A federal board is weighing the fate of Gulf Coast passenger service in a triallike process pitting Amtrak against freight railroads. Because Amtrak operates mostly on tracks owned by others, the case could set precedent as the passenger railroad embarks on a $75 billion expansion with bipartisan support.
“This is the bellwether case for the expansion of any passenger rail in this country,” said John Robert Smith, chairman of the policy organization Transportation for America. “If the freights manage to kill this proposed service, it will send a chill through the rest of the nation aspiring for passenger rail.”
Amtrak’s plan for the 140-mile route from New Orleans to Mobile, Ala., is one of 39 new routes the railroad is pursuing as part of its plan announced last year to reach dozens more cities and towns. The aspirations coincide with Washington’s priorities for more rail and alternate modes of transportation, supported by the bipartisan infrastructure law President Biden signed last year. The measure includes $66 billion for the nation’s ailing rail network.

(Editor's Note: Cities and towns across the country - like Nashville featured in the article below - are facing this same problem. Courts have ruled that state and local laws that attempt to rectify the situation are preemted by federal law. Therefore, it is time the feds take action to defend the people of these towns and cities. Three mile long trains are putting communities in danger everyday. Their length must be restricted by the feds.)
Freight Trains Keep Blocking City Streets and Frustrating Commuters. Can Anything Be Done?
(EXCERPT) In late 2021, rail authorities shared the blockage data they’d gathered for a period of nearly two years. It captured more than 18,000 blockages, and the FRA noted safety hazards such as pedestrians crawling through railcars and delayed trips to hospitals. 
Since the start of 2020, there have been more than 1,900 blocked crossings in Tennessee, including more than 500 that lasted at least an hour. 
In Nashville, there have been 36 instances where a stopped train didn’t move for an entire day.  
The data identifies Douglas Avenue, Sadler Avenue, Delmas Avenue, Elm Hill Pike and 4th Avenue South as the five most-complained about blockages in Davidson County.  
In fact, residents living around Douglas Avenue took the matter into their own hands in October 2021 via the creation of a de facto portal: a Facebook group entitled “Is a Train Blocking Douglas?”   
With nearly 800 members, Facebook users can post the date and times of the blockages (as well as when the road is clear). Amongst the FRA data, the Douglas crossing is the blockage with the highest number of complaints and is of particular inconvenience to those nearby. Over a third of the complaints to the FRA note that pedestrians were observed climbing on, over or through the train cars, and 10% of the complaints indicated that first responders were observed being unable to cross the tracks.

What Does the Federal Railroad Administration Do?

Overseeing safety compliance, providing technical support to federal grant awardees among many functions
Recent freight rail service issues have brought attention to the Surface Transportation Board, an independent federal agency that oversees economic regulations related to the railroads. This oversight includes railroad rates and rail service issues, such as mergers, line sales, line construction and line abandonments. 
But there is another federal agency that also regulates the railroads, and that is the Federal Railroad Administration, which oversees the safety aspects of rail. 
History of FRA
The Federal Railroad Administration was founded in 1966 and given a mission to promote “fast, safe, efficient and convenient transportation at the lowest cost consistent therewith and with other national objectives, including the efficient utilization and conservation of the nation’s resources.”
By creating FRA, the responsibility to oversee rail safety was transferred to FRA from the Interstate Commerce Commission’s Bureau of Safety and Service, as well as the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of High Speed Ground Transportation. 
According to FRA, the passage of the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970 gave FRA plenary authority over rail safety matters, allowing it to prescribe regulations. 
For even more history about the federal government’s involvement in rail safety, check out this 1993 report, The Federal Railroad Safety Program, 100 Years of Safer Railroads.
FRA has several divisions overseeing freight and passenger rail. 

(Editor's Note: The UK rails shut down that country a week earlier. Now it is the French rail workers' turn. Who is next? Perhaps it is time to call for an international conference of railroad workers to share ideas and information, and to coordinate strategy and action.)
French Rail Operations Hit by One-Day Strike
PARIS — French railway workers went on strike today (Wednesday, July 6), with national rail operator SNCF advising customers not to travel if at all possible.
Reuters reports three of the four main unions at SNCF were taking part in the strike resulting in the cancellation of about a third of all trains. Paris commuter trains were also affected.
The strike is scheduled to last for just one day. Most cross-border operations were continuing at normal or near-normal levels, although trains to Spain and overnight service to Vienna were halted.
Unions are demanding salary increases to address inflation, an increased minimum wage, and higher bonuses.
“Railway workers are accepting a lot of sacrifices. They know, once they’re hired, that they will have to work weekends or at night,” Bruno Poncet of the Sud-Rail union told Reuters. “But the compensation for that is not enough.”