Reported by David Dayen for The American Prospect.
Last month, the Warren Buffett–owned BNSF Railway drew attention after a federal judge effectively blocked 17,000 engineers, conductors, and yardmasters from striking. Under the federal Railway Labor Act, workers in key transportation sectors like freight railroads cannot strike over so-called “minor” issues, under the theory that it would cause too much damage to the economy.
The ruling led to an outcry about blocking the right to strike and forcing workers back to their jobs. But less attention was paid to the “minor” issue: a new BNSF attendance policy that employee unions claim penalizes their members for taking time off work, will lead to many having to leave their jobs, and will increase the risk of serious accidents on the freight rail system.
Now the unions have escalated their concerns. Earlier this month, the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, asking their departments to investigate and potentially take action to terminate the policy. In an interview with the Prospect, TTD president Greg Regan questioned whether the policy violates the Family and Medical Leave Act and potentially impacts public safety. “Just doing an investigation can put a significant amount of pressure on these companies,” Regan said.
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