Does the Staffing Crisis on the Railroads Affect Worker Safety?
Worker shortages are crippling industries across the United States. The issue is particularly acute on the railroads where a threatened strike came close to shutting down services and crippling the economy.
The staff shortages are bad for business and bad for safety on the railroads where conditions are already stretching workers to breaking point. As experienced railroad injury lawyers, we see the severe stresses being placed on workers and the injuries they cause.
This month, a standoff between unions and railroad carriers over sick pay and work scheduling, highlighting how staffing shortages have reshaped American workplaces. The railroad workers came close to walking out despite new deals that improved their wage structures.
Understaffing Issues in the U.S.
The Washington Post noted the severe strains understaffing places on workers. With over 11 million job openings and just 6 million unemployed workers, employers have struggled for more than a year as the COVID-19 pandemic waned to hire enough people to fill vacancies. It’s a serious mismatch that has left workers burnt out and unhappy. Although industrial action was averted this month, the problems remain.
The Post noted how the shortage sparked a walk-out of 15,000 nurses in Minnesota, while healthcare workers in Oregon and Michigan recently authorized strikes. A strike by teachers in Seattle delayed the new school year by a week. Worker burnout has become a serious and ongoing problem across the economy. Experts say it is especially pronounced in industries with acute labor shortages.
Worker Shortages on the Railroads
The worker shortage on the railroads is particularly worrying. In May 2022, Politico reported on how America’s railroads have been decimated. A report by the Surface Transportation Board found that the large railroads, including CSX, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and BNSF, lost 45,000 workers over the last six years. The loss represents almost 30 percent of their workforce.
STB chair Marty Oberman told the House Transportation Committee the railroads are “overworking and abusing” their remaining workers to make up for the labor shortage.
Transportation Trades Department President Greg Regan said while the nation has focused on the driver shortage in the trucking industry, the crisis on the railroads has slipped under the radar.
Railroad Companies and Unions
Unions report experienced railroaders are walking away from their jobs midway through their careers, something that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
Inflexible sick leave policies sparked the recent stand-off between the railroads and unions.
A tentative deal would mandate two-person crews, cap health care costs and allow railroad workers to take time off for medical appointments or other scheduled events without being penalized.
However, the deal is tentative and the unions are seeking more specific details on sick leave from the railroads.
Contact Our Firm for Railroad Safety Incidents
We know from experience that over-stressed and tired workers are more likely get hurt on the job. The railroad accident attorneys at Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers have represented injured workers for decades through the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA).
Partner John Cooper is designated by unions to represent their members if they are injured on the job. If you or a family member has suffered an injury on America’s under-staffed railroads, please call our team at (757) 333-3333.