Railroad workers in the Ozarks felt more could have been done with new contract

Published: Dec. 4, 2022 at 9:37 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A railroad strike was sidelined after Congress intervened.

Rail workers received increased pay, but many say they are upset about not having paid sick leave.

”If I’m sick now, I’m coming to work. You know, I don’t definitely want to get a coworker sick, but I’m not staying home.”

Duane McGee has worked with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for 16 years. McGee said workers won by getting a significant pay raise but thinks union leadership fell short on not getting rail workers sick paid time off. He has words for politicians and people in power making decisions.

“Is your staff still showing up at the office every day? Are you working remotely,” said McGee. “Do they have sick days? Can they take time off when they need it?

Congress approved the contract terms with rail workers as a strike was coming. Officials said halting rail service would cause a devastating $2 billion-per-day hit to the economy if a strike happened.

McGee said he is still confused by the contract.

“We’re so important that we can shut the economy down. You would think that the least we would have is some sick days,” said McGee.

McGee said many of his coworkers agree they are coming to work if they are sick.

“I’ve had to go to work, sick and in pain, and for what I mean, just because a company won’t come off for seven days and sick pay when they’re making record profits every year,” said McGee.

McGee said he and many others have had to use much of their time off because of a death in the family or illness. He said the unions should have done better for the people they represent.

“A one or two-day strike would have been harmful,” said McGee. “But we didn’t even have that opportunity to get to that point. That was taken away from us.”

McGee said he greatly appreciates the pay raise, but more could have been done.

“We’re so important that President Biden has called Congress together to stop us from striking, but yet, we’re not important enough to get seven days of sick leave,” said McGee. “That just sort of doesn’t sit well with any of us at all.”

McGee said they want different union leadership after this new agreement. He said he and many of his coworkers hope something changes.

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