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AFL-CIO urges Congress to pass paid sick days for rail workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Nov. 30, 2022) — The following statement from AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler was issued Wednesday on developments regarding rail worker negotiations:

“Rail workers are an integral part of the supply chain that makes America’s economy run. As essential workers, they showed up day in and day out through the pandemic to keep our country moving forward. They deserve good wages, fair treatment and vital protections like paid sick leave.

“As Congress begins deliberating over imposing a contract on these workers, we urge our elected leaders to keep their actions and thoughts firmly focused on workers and their families. While the tentative agreement unions negotiated this year included many critical gains—significant wage increases, caps on health care premiums and prevention of crew reduction—it also fell short by not including provisions on paid sick leave or fair scheduling. It’s now up to Congress to do the right thing by passing paid sick days for rail workers.

The AFL-CIO is a democratic, voluntary federation of 58 national and international labor unions that represent 12.5 million working people. It strives to ensure all working people are treated fairly, with decent paychecks and benefits, safe jobs, dignity, and equal opportunities. Learn more at

Meanwhile, Greg Regan and Shari Semelsberger, president and secretary-treasurer of the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO, issued this statement Wednesday regarding scheduled congressional votes to resolve the national rail labor contract:

“For more than three years, America’s rail unions bargained in good faith with freight railroads to improve hellish working conditions that pushed workers to the brink of exhaustion, illness, and burn out.

“The rail industry’s unchecked corporate greed and bad faith bargaining efforts forced this contract fight to run the full course of the Railway Labor Act, landing at the doorstep of the Biden Administration and the U.S. Congress.

“While the unions didn’t get everything their members wanted through the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) process and subsequent negotiations, they secured some major wins for workers. Today, Congress has an opportunity to grant sick leave to rail workers, thus rectifying a major omission by the PEB.

“Right now, every Member of Congress has an opportunity to be a champion of the working class. We implore these elected leaders to stand with essential workers who are the backbone of our nation’s supply chain. We urge the House and the Senate  to vote in favor of guaranteeing seven days of paid sick leave to rail workers.

“A worker should not be fired for going to the doctor. Yet it is 2022 and railroaders are fighting for sick leave in the richest country on Earth.

“It is unacceptable when the vote for a contract is denied to the union membership. It is also a violation of the core democratic nature of unions and the membership’s right to vote.

“Let’s be clear: the blame for this violation rests entirely with the freight railroads. At any moment, they could have chosen to grant a sick leave policy to their workforce.

“We are faced with an undeniable truth that freight railroads have shaped themselves into modern day robber barons. By recklessly prioritizing profits over people, they have failed workers, customers, and consumers.

“Going forward, it is clear that we need massive systemic reforms to the freight rail industry to improve the lives of rail workers and the service that is provided to freight rail customers.

“Transportation labor will aggressively pursue necessary reforms to the rail industry through legislative and regulatory action.

“Today, we can achieve paid sick leave for rail workers. Tomorrow, the fight continues.”

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