On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) and the totality of rail labor as represented by our affiliated unions, I write in support of the sentiments raised by the National Grain and Feed Association’s (NGFA) March 24th letter to the Board. NGFA describes service disruptions its members are facing on the Union Pacific (UP), Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and Norfolk Southern (NS), in both picking up and delivering grain and feed products. As NGFA discusses, this presents not only financial challenges for its members, but ultimately threatens the ability of the nation’s farmers to feed their livestock. The notion that our nation’s food supply chain is threatened by the continued negligence and intransigence of the railroad industry is both stunning and unacceptable.
On behalf of U.S. transportation workers — including the vast majority of public transportation employees — who are collectively represented by the undersigned unions, we are writing to ensure you are aware of the increasingly dangerous atmosphere in our public transportation systems and to urge you to protect workers and riders by immediately implementing the safety provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Our members include bus and rail transit operators, station agents, car cleaners, mechanics, and other frontline workers, all of whom are at risk of assault and worse each day they arrive at work. President Biden committed to protecting these workers and that promise was enshrined into law as part of the BIL. Before, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, these workers have laid their lives on the line every day to ensure Americans have access to safe, reliable transportation, and we must not turn our backs on them another day.
On February 1, 2022, BNSF Railway implemented a new “Hi-Viz” attendance policy that betrays its obligation to protect the safety and health of its workers and the public. This draconian new policy will reduce the safety of the rail network and exacerbate existing supply chain challenges. We concur with the letter sent on January 31, 2022 by the BLET and SMART-TD, TTD affiliate unions, and hope you will examine this matter and its effects on impacted BNSF employees.
Most railroad engineers and trainmen do not work predictable schedules. They are expected to remain in on-call status continuously, without pause for weekends and holidays. This often means that a rail worker can learn at any time, with as little as 90 minutes of notice, that they are called to report to work for a shift lasting anywhere from 12 to 60 hours. The only mechanism that provided some degree of predictability to this arrangement was train line-ups, which indicated a loose likelihood of being called to duty, and were solely managed by the railroad. BNSF has admitted that this system was inadequate and poorly predicted workers’ schedules.