Galesburg BMWED leader reacts to congressional intervention in railway labor dispute

Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 11:45 PM CST
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GALESBURG, Ill. (KWQC) - Railway workers across the country are reacting to congressional intervention between the railroads and the unions in order to avoid a strike.

Some experts estimated a railroad strike could have cost the U.S. economy $2 billion a day.

Dec. 9 was the deadline for the Class One railroads and the 12 railway unions to come to an agreement, had congress not intervened last week.

One of those unions is the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, which represents about 26,000 workers nationwide. Its members maintain the railways.

Nick Allen, Chairman of BMWED Local 798, in Galesburg said it was never their intention to disrupt the economy.

“It wasn’t about raises,” Allan said. “It was just about the quality of life.”

In October, more than 11,000 BMWED members voted on the agreement made in September and 56% of them voted against it.

According to Allen, his members understand why congress had to intervene but felt it doesn’t make it right.

“We have been trying to fight for quality of life and those sick days,” Allen said. “To have congress and the president step in and ... take those rights away to strike was pretty disappointing.”

Currently, BMWED members receive no sick days.

In the new contract, many unions were calling for 14, and some members of congress pushed to add seven.

Ultimately, they saw none in the deal.

Allen said they did, however, get one small improvement.

“Outside of our vacation, we don’t actually gain a personal leave day that we can use until we hit eight years of seniority out here,” Allen said. “Now everybody at least has a personal leave date, no matter what seniority they have.”

This isn’t the first time congress has stepped in, notably in 1992 it voted to end an almost three-day-long railroad strike.

While demands weren’t met this time around, Allen said he and many of his members look forward to the next round of negotiations.

“The guys that railroad, love to railroad,” Allen said. “We do take a lot of pride in our work and that’s why we do it. That’s why we fight for … our basic rights here on the railroad and [are] trying to make it better.”

According to some union leaders in Galesburg, rail workers across the country are organizing an informational picket on Dec. 13 in response to congressional intervention.