Railroad Unions Win a Sick Day for the First Time

Workers will be able to go to medical appointments without being penalized under new contract
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 15, 2022 7:30 PM CDT
Railroad Unions Win a Sick Day for the First Time
President Biden, with Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, left, speaks about a tentative railway labor agreement in the Rose Garden of the White House on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

More than 40 years after President Ronald Reagan fired air traffic controllers who went on strike, President Biden decided against taking a hard line in the negotiations between freight railroads and unions. In private talks, Biden defended the workers' positions, the Washington Post reports. In the middle of the night, when the talks appeared to be successful, he called representatives from both sides into the Oval Office for a celebration. And Biden recounted some of his Amtrak trip stories for them. If the unions ratify the agreement, the economic disaster of a strike or lockout is averted. The companies and the unions, as well as the president, praised the deal. "This is a vast improvement over what that railroad life was like before," Dennis Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, told USA Today. The agreement includes:

  • Doctor visits: Workers will be able to leave the job for medical appointments without facing penalty, but it will count as unpaid leave, per the New York Times. That's not close to what the unions wanted, which was 15 paid sick days; workers have none now. Employees will be able to take another paid day off. Still, it's the first time the rail companies have agreed to any paid sick time.
  • Heath insurance: Current employee plans will not be disrupted, per USA Today. Premiums won't increase when the contract expires, while a new one is being negotiated.
  • Pay: Wages increase 24% over a five-year period starting in 2020. The average payout upon ratification should be $11,000 per worker, industry groups said. The companies also will pay an annual bonus of $5,000.
(Read more freight train stories.)

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