Utah railroad workers criticize Union Pacific over schedules, lack of pay raises

by Daniel Woodruff, KUTV for kutv.com

Railroad workers in Utah are crying foul against Union Pacific over what they say they’re dealing with on the job.

Local members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) met with their national president Wednesday morning in Salt Lake City as the union negotiates with Union Pacific and other railway companies for a new contract.

“Union Pacific will not bargain in good faith with its unions,” said Dennis Pierce, BLET national president, “and we’re here to make sure everybody knows that.”

Pierce told KUTV 2News the union has been negotiating with Union Pacific over pay and work hours for years – with no success.

“They’ve made record profits. They’ve forced our membership to work during the pandemic as essential employees,” Pierce said. “They haven’t had a contract raise in almost three years.”

Dennis Pierce, national president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, meets with local union members in the Salt Lake City, Utah area on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 (Photo: Mike Stephen/KUTV)

While Pierce met with local workers Wednesday, a driving billboard made its way through the streets of Salt Lake City, calling Union Pacific “off track” and listing grievances against the company.

A driving billboard moved through Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, drawing attention to complaints from railroad workers against Union Pacific (Photo: Mike Stephen/KUTV)

Brian Brady, a train engineer in Utah, said he loves his job but not the conditions under which he sometimes has to work.

“I’ve never seen it this chaotic or morale as low as it’s been in my 18 years,” Brady said. “Quality of life really is what we’re after.”

Brady said railroad workers are putting in longer hours with an inflexible attendance policy.

Brian Brady, a train engineer, speaks with KUTV 2News on Wednesday, April 13, 2022 about some of the problems he deals with on the job (Photo: Mike Stephen/KUTV)

“We get penalized if we take any personal time off,” he said.

Union Pacific declined an on-camera interview request from KUTV 2News Wednesday when asked about the workers’ complaints about wages and hours.

“These issues are part of the collective bargaining agreement, which is currently being negotiated. We are in mediation and progress is being made,” spokesperson Kristen South said in a statement.

Union Pacific issued a brief statement to KUTV 2News Wednesday, April 13, 2022 regarding complaints from Utah railroad workers about pay and scheduling issues (Graphic: KUTV)

So, is a strike possible – with huge implications for the supply chain?

“Strikes are always the last resort,” Pierce told KUTV 2News.

But, he acknowledged, something could happen later this year if an agreement isn’t reached.

Railroad workers in Utah are crying foul against Union Pacific over what they say they’re dealing with on the job (Photo: Kennedy DeRaedt/KUTV)

“Our goal is not to interrupt the supply chain,” Pierce said. “Our goal is to get our membership a fair contract.”

Pierce said the union will meet again with Union Pacific next week. In the meantime, he said, the union planned to run similar driving billboards in other parts of the country.

“This is just to wake the community up to what’s going on,” Pierce said.

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