The Chairman of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) Marty Oberman announced that they will be holding a public hearing on “Urgent Issues in Freight Rail Service,”scheduled for April 26th and 27th. The STB will direct the big four Class 1 railroads to appear before the board, and has invited rail customers and labor organizations to give testimony as well.
In the announcement, Chairman Oberman issued the following statement:
During my time on the Board, I have raised concerns about the primacy Class I railroads have placed on lowering their operating ratios and satisfying their shareholders even at the cost of their customers. Part of that strategy has involved cutting their work force to the bare bones in order to reduce costs. Over the last 6 years, the Class Is collectively have reduced their work force by 29% – that is about 45,000 employees cut from the payrolls. In my view, all of this has directly contributed to where we are today – rail users experiencing serious deteriorations in rail service because, on too many parts of their networks, the railroads simply do not have a sufficient number of employees.
This hearing is not just about where we are but also about where we are going. The Board expects the railroads to explain the actions they will take to fix these issues. The Board will also consider stakeholder views on how it can use its authority—including measures to address emergencies, increase transparency, and promote reliable service—to ameliorate problems on the network.
TCU and the IAM are currently preparing to attend the hearing to bring to light what our members see every day: the Class 1s have cut the workforce to the bone, that they have made the jobs harder than ever, and – perhaps most importantly – that the railroads are intentionally dragging their feet at the bargaining table.
“In an era of rising inflation and competitive raises across industries, the railroads have chosen NOT to compete in the current labor market,” said TCU National President Artie Maratea. “I’m sickened by how unserious negotiations have been with the carriers. They don’t want a deal. They don’t want to make jobs on the railroad attractive – like they once were.”
“I’m glad the STB is holding this hearing as it will give rail labor the voice it needs to hold the railroads accountable for their own actions. One of the main reasons why this union supported Joe Biden for President is because we knew he would make wise choices in his appointments, such as Marty Oberman to lead the STB. Chairman Oberman’s comments are indicative of someone that truly understands the challenges facing the freight rail industry and its workforce.”
TCU will be working with the IAM in the coming weeks to prepare testimony on the state of rail service through the eyes of its employees. TCU Representatives and Local Chairs are encouraged to provide any-and-all specific information on service degradation in the PSR era to Asst. Nat. Legislative Director Dave Arouca at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An example of specific information might be:
“We used to have 80 carmen at XXXX yard, able to get inspect and turn around 10 trains a day, now we have 15 carmen on staff, working mandatory overtime to get 4 trains out per day. So while we have fewer trains than before, we have more per-person, and less flexibility overall. People have quit or are refusing recall because they can find easier/safer jobs elsewhere for similar or better pay, where they can see their family on the weekends.”
Click here for a PDF version of the STB notice.