The president of a railroad workers’ union blasted a bill passed by the Senate to address a potential railroad workers’ strike Thursday, saying it failed to address “quality of life” issues.
“Our members would be extremely dissatisfied. We have been fighting for sick leave for 55 years. We have an opportunity to get it now. We only need ten Republicans to stand with us on this issue,” Tony Cardwell, president of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said. “I challenge some Republicans to step up, stand with the blue-collar workers of America, stand for the right thing, and vote with – vote with the Democrats on this issue. We also have, you know, some concern on a couple of the Democrats. We hope the Democrats stay with us as well. Look. Our members need paid sick leave.” (RELATED: Martha MacCallum Slams Biden For Taking ‘Victory Lap’ On Railroad Situation As Strike Looms)
The Senate passed the legislation to avert a strike by BMWED and three other railway unions that rejected the deal brokered by President Joe Biden in September after the failure of an amendment that included seven days of paid sick leave. The House of Representatives passed a similar bill Wednesday.
Provisions of the deal include a 24% pay hike for railroad workers over five years and a $5,000 annual bonus, according to a September joint statement by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and SMART Transportation Division unions, but several unions complained that the deal did not address attendance policies and a lack of paid sick leave.
“Our members have been out of contract for three years. They worked through the pandemic without any bonuses from the railroad. They worked hard and were considered essential workers. There’s no reason in the world that they shouldn’t get a 24% wage increase. Our proposal was 31%,” Cardwell said. “The 24% barely keeps up with inflation. My members average about $31 an hour and they’re some of the highest skilled labor in America. For high-skill labor, that’s a low wage, and this helps them catch up to where they should be, but this doesn’t deal with the quality of life issues. That’s what’s important for these members. When you are sick, you should be able to stay home. You should not be forced to go to work.”
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