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Railroad Strike Ahead? Rail Workers Just Want Sick Leave

Highly profitable railroad companies refuse to offer workers a single sick day as they negotiate a new contract.

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Rail workers could be just weeks away from a strike that would shut down much of the U.S. economy. After months of negotiations and a tentative agreement negotiated by the Biden administration, extremely profitable railroad companies continue to refuse to provide a single day of paid sick leave to rail workers.

In response, three of the five largest rail unions rejected the proposed contract and are now approaching the end of a “cooling off” period after which the unions could strike or Congress could impose a contract. Workers are pleading with Congress to either “stay out of it, or support us.” Workers are asking Congress to improve the proposed contract by guaranteeing employees paid sick days. More Perfect Union heard from the rail workers who voted NO in the video below.


A national railroad strike looms after thousands of railroad workers voted to reject a tentative contract agreement. Here’s why they voted no in their own words:

Devin Mantz: I voted no on the contract because we deserve more.

Adam Smithey: It does not meet the requirements for quality of life that we need. We need time to sleep, we need time to rest, we need to enjoy our lives. We don’t have any of that now.

Matt Weaver: We’re considered essential employees, and we don’t have a single paid sick day to use when we’re off. We worked through the pandemic, we were considered essential, and now it seems like we’re expendable.

Dave Manning: If a person is sick, they shouldn’t have to use all of their paid days that they had to earn the previous year before to take a day off.

Matt Morty Mortenson: We’re constantly coming to work sick and exhausted.

Reece Murtagh: We routinely work 14 hours and longer every day.

Matt Morty Mortenson: We’ve currently lost 2 BMWED members in the past two weeks and they might have been here today with us if they would have just been able to rest and reset.

Devin: We’ve seen major cuts to our workforce and we’re feeling it every day. The least that the railroad can do is give us paid sick leave so we don’t drag our illnesses to work.

John Defoor: I voted no because railroad workers devote months of their lives away from their families.

Dave: There’s no dignity in missing your kid’s birthday. There’s no dignity in missing all the holidays. There’s no dignity when you have no pictures to look back at when your family went on trips and you weren’t there to take pictures with them.

Matt Weaver: We work to live, not live to work.

Dave: People just wanna be able to see their kids, you know? Make a few more memories, you know? I don’t have a whole lot of these. My kid’s grown. We got a lot of young pups out here that are just starting to see their kids grow a little bit. Let’s show some humanity.

John: Asking for a contract that addresses sick days and family time off doesn’t seem like an extreme request.

The rail industry made a record $20 billion in profits in 2021.

It spent $18 billion to buy back its own stock that same year, investing in its wealthy shareholders instead of its workers.

Matt Weaver: The railroads have had record profits throughout my career. Only less than 2% of the buybacks over the last year would pay for the sick days that we ask for.

Congress has the power to force a contract upon the rail workers.

John: We’re asking for our senators to step in and help us improve this contract, not impose it. 

Matt Weaver: Our public servants can help us out by giving us those paid sick days.

Ross Grooters: We need our senators to side with workers because adequate staffing and quality of life is a step toward protecting our supply chain and ensuring a healthy freight rail system.

Dave: Stay out of it, or support us.

Adam: If you guys do start writing up stuff, give me a call, I can give you some ideas.

The future of the rail industry depends on improving conditions for workers.

Bryan Baller: This is not a Republican issue, this is not a Democratic issue, this is a complete country issue. 

John: Do right by the people you represent and not the big businesses.

Matt Weaver: This is about doing the right thing for working people.

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