As Reported by Matthew Jinoo Buck for The American Prospect
Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department, a labor organization, explains that when the supply chain crisis hit, “the drastic cuts to the rail labor force during PSR have ensured that there is no flexibility in the workforce.” Railroads used to maintain “extra boards,” or backup train crews on call just in case. In recent years, railroads viewed those as costs to be cut, which, Regan says, “backfired when those employees were needed.” Training and certification requirements then prevented employees from being hired back quickly.
A deteriorating safety culture has also prompted laid-off railroad workers to rethink coming back to railroads that seem to view their safety as another cost to minimize in the name of efficiency and PSR. Workers overwhelmingly complain of being pushed to work faster and sacrifice safety for speed. Regan says that railroad managers rush workers into neglecting safety inspections and argues that thousands of workers have left the railroad industry out of concern for the railroads’ poor workplace safety. The Federal Railroad Administration, the primary safety regulator for the railroad industry, reports that, since 2012, Class I railroads had higher rates of train accidents or incidents, higher rates of yard switching accidents, higher rates of equipment defects, and more total fatalities, all while total Class I train miles were down roughly 40 percent. A Vice investigation in March covered a streak of train derailments that it described as “the all-too-predictable result of … adopting [PSR].” One labor leader warned, “It’s going to end up … like Boeing.”
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