Labor Union Presses Railroads On Additional Coronavirus Measures


The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED), a U.S. rail labor union affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, wants the freight railroads to privately mandate the testing and tracing of the COVID-19 virus among employees after the recent deaths of several members.

“The pandemic is not slowing nationally. Numbers are rising and the death toll is increasing. We understand that train service must continue. We remain willing — as always — to work to that goal,” BMWED said. “But, we will not be sacrificial pawns to railroads who resist implementing screening and tracing procedures that would greatly help control COVID-19 spread. We are not going to continue to have our members die.”

The group sent letters last week to the heads of the seven Class I railroads, pressing the executives to consider implementing stricter measures that would ensure that sick workers aren't on the job. These measures include prescreening tools such as temperature checking and symptom assessments, contact tracing, quarantines of employees who were exposed to infected co-workers, and regular testing of employees.

The letters come after four BMWED members have died from the coronavirus. The group didn't say where the members worked. BMWED said it sent similar letters to Amtrak and the Metra commuter railroads in June.

“The safety and well-being of railroad workers is a mutual interest between the Railroad and the BMWED. Should you desire the BMWED's leadership is ready to meet immediately to work collaboratively. … The BMWED members will continue to show up for America and perform this essential service. In the same way, the railroad needs to start showing up for the workers and the public by ensuring that they take all necessary steps and protocols to protect them from this life-threatening disease,” said BMWED President Freddie N. Simpson in letters to the railroads.

The letter also included a 13-page white paper on suggested federal guidelines that the railroads could consider.

The railroads' responses

The railroads and the unions have conducted conference calls daily on best practices, according to …

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