Rail strike expected to be avoided after House voting, but Nebraska railroad workers seek something else

OMAHA, Nebraska — As the deadline for a huge strike draws near, Congress is attempting to ensure that train workers will adhere to the agreement that was reached in September. The members of the United States House of Representatives decided to commit the industry and the workers to that contract, while at the same time adding part of the sick leave that the unions desire.

Railroad workers claim they have never been given paid time off for illness. The work takes a toll on Jakob Forsgren, a thermite welder at BNSF, who says he feels it every day. He is sick at home with the flu, and because he does not have any sick time off, he will have to utilize his paid time off (PTO), but he requires the agreement of his boss.

“Having the flu has not in any way been a pleasant experience for me. Having to worry about whether or not I’m going to get paid for these days definitely complicates that,” Forsgren added.

Following more than 18 years of service in the railroad industry, George Loveland is currently serving as the General Chairman of the Burlington System Division. It’s a union post with the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, and it’s one that’s elected by the membership. He relates a tale that is comparable.

“I was not present during the births of both of my children, as well as for several of the medical operations that were performed on my wife. Even though I was sick, I had no choice but to go to work. I am fully aware that I have contaminated my coworkers. I am very aware that they have infected me, “Loveland had this to say.

Because of circumstances such as these, some of these unions are advocating for increased sick leave so that their members would not be forced to choose between their health and their ability to pay their bills.

Joseph Nantista, who is the Assistant General Chairman for the Unified System Division of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, stated that railroads instituted a 14-day quarantine period if railroad workers were infected or exposed to the virus during the peak of the pandemic.

According to Nantista, “the financial impact was terrible for our employees.” [Citation needed]

Workers were eligible to receive certain benefits upon retirement from the railroad, but he described the sum as “poor.” They were paid $82 each day for their time.

“Those members would receive the same amount as everyone else. That amounts to $82 a day for the entirety of their time in the hospital, and some of them spent anywhere from three to five months there. That is a really significant setback, “Nantista added.

The tentative agreement being discussed between railroad workers and operators is a pact that will last for four years; nonetheless, the negotiations have taken a very long time. At the end of the year 2024, it will no longer be valid.

According to Nantista, “the process is frequently drawn out and tedious, as well as frustrating.”

However, Forsgren provides evidence that demonstrates how catastrophic COVID-19 and a shortage of sick days may be.

“There were individuals of our community who had their homes destroyed. There were some assets that were rendered useless as a result of repeated contact with COVID and repeated instances in which they were taken out of commission for a duration of two weeks on multiple occasions “Forsgren added.

Rep. Don Bacon sent a statement to 3 News Now via email in which he expressed his support for the provision of sick leave on the grounds that a higher “quality of life” is equally as vital as an increase in salary. The bill will next be considered in the Senate.

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