Railroaders rally in Lincoln to urge BNSF to reach union contract
LINCOLN, Neb. (KLKN) – Railroad ralliers were standing outside Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad on Sunday in the Haymarket, calling on BNSF and the unions to agree on a contract.
Railroad workers across the country have been working without a contract since 2019. They are pushing for better pay, change in attendance policies and more.
Paul Bellows, a railroad worker, spoke about why it was essential for them to rally for their rights as workers.
“We are down here today to raise awareness of what the railroads are doing,” he said. “We have gone three years without a raise. We have worked through the COVID pandemic. We were essential workers, and I had to travel all over the country, susceptible to COVID-19. At the start of 2020, we tried national negotiation, and the railroads did not want to negotiate with us. We are bringing awareness, Lincoln being a big BNSF town, to the public regarding what is happening with our workers and trying to get a contract with the railroads.”
Many at the rally told of unsafe working conditions and said cutting staff in specific areas creates a dangerous environment.
“The subdivision I work on runs from Kansas City to Omaha, and I started on the railroad in 1997,” Steven Titus, a union representative and railroad worker, told Channel 8. “We used to have over 40 people working in the subdivision, the maintenance away department, which we build the tracks, inspect the ways and stuff like that. There used to be over 40, and now about 12 of us are doing the same job.”
Workers say the company continues to push for one-person crews on some trains. They say that it is dangerous because it would remove the conductor and leave the engineer in control of everything.
Railways and unions remain at a standstill after a government board ended efforts to mediate the settlement.
In a 30-day cooling-off period, no solution has been reached. Many hope that President Joe Biden will create a presidential emergency board to help resolve the dispute. There has been speculation regarding a strike if an agreement isn’t reached by July 18, but Congress can also intervene in the dispute.
Matthew Weaver, another union representative and organizer of the rally, explains why he hopes that Biden steps in soon.
“I believe that President Biden should be able to provide us with three appointees, the presidential emergency board, that will be neutral and give us a fair contract that we will have decent pay,” he said. “You know the cost of living is up. Good working conditions. A better solid schedule.”
We contacted BNSF to comment on this story by phone and email. No response has been given at this time. The rally was Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.