Take action to support rail workers in WA

Urge State Representatives to vote for SB 5267, granting unpaid absence job protections to railroad workers


OLYMPIA (April 7, 2023) — The unfair, unsafe cost-cutting by major railroad carriers have gotten increased public and regulatory scrutiny with the hazardous-materials train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, and the narrowly averted strike by railroad workers demanding basic rights. They remain one of the few classifications of workers who get no, or very limited, paid sick leave.

As the nation looks to improve rail safety and working conditions, the Washington State Legislature has an opportunity to stand up for rail workers.

SB 5267, sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer (D-Bellevue), would provide job protections for rail workers when they take certain unpaid leave. Rail workers are only asking not to be fired or disciplined when they must take unpaid leave for illnesses or absences.

This bill passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan 42-7 vote, but has yet to receive a floor vote in the House, where it must pass by Wednesday, April 12 to survive the cutoff deadline.

TAKE A STAND — Washington residents are urged to send a message to your State Representatives urging them to vote “yes” on SB 5267.

Currently, Washington state rail workers are subjected to discipline for unpaid absences due to sickness. During the pandemic, many have been disciplined for COVID-19-related absences. They live and work in fear of losing their careers, so they frequently go to work even when they’re sick, reluctantly spreading their illnesses, and infecting their co-workers.

Operating rail employees are responsible for the safe movement of trains. They are required to be completely devoted to the needs of the railroad company and accept calls for duty 24/7, 365 days a year — all weekends and holidays. Failure to report for work within 1½ to 2 hours or missing a call — even when sick, fatigued, or when they know they’re not fit to safely work — results in discipline and eventually firing.

Under SB 5267, railroad companies in Washington would be prohibited from disciplining or taking adverse action against a rail worker for unpaid time off work due to illnesses or injuries, or those of a family member. A rail carrier can request that an employee produce medical substantiation for their absence, but if that documentation is provided, they are protected from discipline or termination.

The Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO joins SMART Transportation Division/United Transportation Union and multiple other unions representing rail workers in strongly supporting SB 5267. Please urge your State Representatives to bring SB 5267 to the House floor and to vote “yes.”

For more information, see this one-pager on SB 5267 and Falsehoods vs. Fact sheet.

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