MIAMI, FL – MAY 24: An Amtrak train is seen as people board at the Miami station on May 24, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
UPDATED 1:37 PM PT – Saturday, July 16, 2022
Biden established a presidential emergency board to tackle pay and schedule disputes between railroads and rail workers unions. The executive order issued Friday, intervened in a massive strike set for Monday that would have delayed 30 percent of all US freight.
Union leaders said conductors and engineers have not received a raise in years despite record profits for several railroad companies. The industry has reportedly lost 20 percent of its workforce since 2017, which led to under staffing and longer hours for employees that stay.
The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway is the largest Class I railroad in the country and is one of the two major freight railroads in Wyoming. It employs about 40,000 people and operates in 28 states on over 32,000 miles of track throughout its system.
The railroad has been one of the major economic drivers and employers for many of the Wyoming communities it passes through. Many owe their existence to it. In February, BNSF instituted an attendance policy known as Hi-Viz, which drew immediate criticism from employees and railroad unions. Kevin Knutson is a Gillette-based conductor and union leader who has worked for the railroad for over 40 years. He said the policy is very stringent.
“The attendance policy we had in the past, it would allow basically any person to take two weekend days and five weekdays per month off,” explained Knutson. “This policy that they have now, cut that in half and in half. For instance, if I took off every other Sunday, no other days, I would be dismissed by the end of the year.”
BNSF said more than 50 percent of train crew employees work less than 40 hours on average