A federal judge is rejecting a strike order by one of Union Pacific’s bigger unions. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division threatened to walk off the job last month due to COVID-19 safety concerns, but those plans have been derailed.
Saying the pandemic was not “a work-specific safety concern,” Judge Brian Buescher says the union needs to address its demands with Union Pacific directly via contract negotiations. The union wants the Class 1 company to strengthen COVID-19 safety protocols in the workplace, and also is seeking full-time pay if workers have to be quarantined.
Union Pacific claims it is following guidelines from public health experts, including sanitizing locomotives and other equipment that employees use and eliminating meetings so employees can avoid gathering in groups. All workers are required to wear a mask.
The union admits there are similar concerns with other Class 1 railroad companies, but will continue to push safety demands on Union Pacific. According to the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, many are forced to come to work even if they are sick because Union Pacific is refusing to pay full-time wages if they are quarantined, and may not pay anything at all if an employee is quarantined multiple times.
There also is a call to screen employees before they start work, regular coronavirus testing and more to be done to ensure social distancing.