Rail worker unions want the unemployed to get a chance before Class 1 waivers are granted

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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Before railroad companies are granted a pass, they need to make sure they are not taking a pass on workers currently on furlough.

The Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO (TTD) has sent a letter to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Administrator Ron Batory requesting that before railroad companies are granted waivers on safety-related regulations, it must be confirmed that railroad companies are facing a true labor shortage, and all options, including using unemployed railroad workers, have been exhausted.

The letter was signed by 12 rail labor groups, including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers—Transportation Division.

“If a carrier finds itself short on active employees, its first option must be found in the abundant supply of out-of-work railroaders, not in administrative intervention to be exempted from safety-critical regulations,” the letter said. “We request that FRA make clear that a workforce shortage cannot be declared until these terms are met, and that this requirement be considered an amendment to all waivers granted contingent on workforce shortages.

“FRA should prohibit the use of any waiver for a carrier who is found to be non-compliant with the amended terms.”

Last year layoffs were all too common as many Class 1 operators implemented precision scheduled railroading. According to the Surface Transportation Board, just over 127,000 worked for Class 1 railroads in the U.S. in February, a 12.5 percent drop from February 2019.

If out-of-work employees need training or if their qualifications have been expired, the TTD says they should be granted a waiver that allows them to work as long as they receive training within 60 days of the waiver’s expiration date.

TTD also wants Class 1 railroads to be required to submit a weekly report on how and when the waiver was used, and what manpower shortages or other conditions called for the waiver.

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