In a first phase, some CSX railroaders will be paid for sick days

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Several thousand workers at CSX will soon get one of the things that brought the US railroad industry to the brink of a strike last fall: paid sick leave.

CSX announced a deal Tuesday with two of its 12 unions, becoming the first major railroad company to offer this benefit most US workers take for granted.

About 4,000 track maintenance workers in the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division and another 1,000 mechanical workers in the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen union will receive four days’ paid sick leave under the agreements. Employees can also convert three of their personal vacation days into sick leave.

Quality of life concerns over a lack of paid sick leave and demanding schedules that keep many rail workers on call around the clock dominated contract negotiations with all major rail companies last fall. More than half of the roughly 115,000 railroad workers involved voted against five-year contracts, which included 24% pay increases and $5,000 in bonuses, over these concerns.

Eventually, that contract was imposed on all workers at the CSX, BNSF, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and Kansas City Southern Railroads after Congress and President Joe Biden intervened to block a strike over concerns about the potential dire economic consequences.

Tuesday’s deal is particularly welcome for railroad workers, who remained frustrated after the contract’s imposition because the new contract did not solve most of their quality of life problems. Many workers say their jobs have become unbearable after more than a third of all railroad jobs have been eliminated over the past six years as railroads retooled their operations.

“It’s a beautiful thing because that’s what we’re fighting for,” said Matt Weaver, a BMWED member based in Toledo, Ohio. “Things are going in the right direction. We just have to keep the momentum going.”

CSX CEO Joe Hinrichs said the agreements demonstrate the railroad’s “commitment to listening to our railroad workers and working with their representatives to find solutions that improve their quality of life and experience as employees.”

Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX and the other big railroads refused to offer paid sick leave last fall because they said unions had been agreeing for decades to forego paid sick leave in favor of heavy short-term disability benefits and higher pay. Railroad officials also said it was too late in the years of negotiations to work sick time into the deal.

“This paid sick leave agreement with CSX is certainly welcome but long overdue,” said Greg Regan, president of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Division Labor Coalition, which includes all major rail unions. “We look forward to other railroads making similar arrangements with CSX and other railroads to follow suit.”

All other rail freight companies agreed to continue to negotiate with the unions on ways to improve their quality of life. Tuesday’s announcement is the first significant outcome of those talks.

There have been a few other small encouraging signs of progress this year, including CSX’s announcement that workers will no longer be penalized for missing work at doctor’s appointments, and Union Pacific launching a small scheduling pilot that will give a handful of engineers regularly scheduled days off provided.


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