PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – President Biden signed the labor contract between railroad companies and their workers on Friday. Congress acted on Thursday and passed legislation to avert the rail strike. The House of Representatives passed a second bill that would have given railroad workers seven paid sick days, but the Senate failed to pass the measure.
Local railway employees were disappointed. While acknowledging that a strike would have been devastating for the country, they point out that they have been campaigning for paid sick leave for years. “It was great work,” said Krista Garner. “I love my job, I love what I do,” Garner’s husband Norm said. Both have been railway workers for 25 years. They’ve worked their way up to become engineers, which means they drive the freight trains that carry the goods we depend on.
“It’s been phenomenal work, don’t get me wrong, just with the deep cuts and the pandemic and then the attendance policy, it’s been difficult,” Krista said. “I come home after being away for 48, 50, 55 hours and I’m back on the train in 12 hours. You know, on the way back to Yuma,” Norm explained.
The Garners said being a railway worker means you don’t have days off. The holiday period is determined at the beginning of the year. There are personal days, but it’s hard to take advantage of them at the last minute. If you need a sick day, it is unpaid. Recently, the Garners said the railroads had introduced a points system; Too many sick days can result in losing your job. “The scoring system is just brutal,” said Norm.
According to statistics from the Department of Labor, nearly 80% of workers in the US are paid for sick leave. “My heart really goes out to the younger people who have many more years to work,” said Krista.
Under the agreement, rail workers will receive an immediate 14% pay rise, which will increase to 24% by 2024. You’ll also get more healthcare benefits and an extra day of vacation. The White House helped broker the deal with the railroad unions back in September. But, alas, it did not include paid sick leave, and the workers refused.
Congress used its power Thursday to pass legislation enforcing the labor agreement and avoiding a potential strike. A separate bill that would have granted railroad workers paid sick leave passed the House of Representatives but not the Senate. “What will it really cost you? What is that so much? Is that so much?” said Krista.
In a statement, the American Association of Railroads, a trade group representing railroad companies, said:
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