BNSF Strike?

badlandnp Jan 23, 2022

  1. badlandnp

    badlandnp TrainBoard Member

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  2. Grunt

    Grunt TrainBoard Member

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    We shall see what the judge rules soon enough. I'm pretty pessimistic given the venue.
     
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  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Earlier this morning I was contact with a BNSF employee, about this very subject. A strike is coming unless the fools who cobbled up this nonsense back off. Who would want to work for them under such a oppressive management ideal? Seems like a flat out stupid return to the nineteenth century, to me. A positive change would be the RR ridding itself of those who came up this idiotic concept.
     
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  4. nscalestation

    nscalestation TrainBoard Supporter

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    Scrolling down after the BNSF strike article there is a nice long article on 100 years of Omaha's Union Station.
     
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  5. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

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    I wonder if the issue is that unpredictable staffing makes it difficult to efficiently run trains within today's precise scheduling requirements? When a train can't depart a terminal, it sets up more trouble down the line, affecting route capacity, scheduled interchange, recrewing within their own system and refunding of revenue to shippers like UPS for not meeting performance standards. Just as in the airline business, if BNSF can't depend on having a necessary number of operating personnel each day, they can't run the operation, making staffing troubles even more acute. Airlines can (and have) curtailed thousands of flights, but a railroad cannot curtail service without an immediate economic impact.

    It's not that they don't want to hire people, it's that they can't find people to hire.

    Perhaps they should have instead worked a plan to incent people to show up, but then they'd be paying extra for a basic expectation of employment.

    I'm not taking sides here; it's a mess and employees are exhausted. With global supply chains dangerously stretched, I'd be surprised if the judge allows a strike, and if so because of political winds, that it would not be permitted to last very long.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2022
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  6. badlandnp

    badlandnp TrainBoard Member

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    The process to get hired by the BNSF is lengthy and difficult. Many things knock you out of the running before you even get a start, some are physical, some are social. And if you are a train nut, forget it. Don't even try!

    On the off chance you do get hired, the management is looking for reasons to either lay you off for an infraction or fire you. And they make it known. Their attitude gives water to the rumor about the mgmnt getting bonuses for finding rule infractions and disciplining/firing as needed.

    Anyway, I think that the mgmnt's end game is to get the autonomous trains with less fuss.
     
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  7. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    I can't say I have any confidence in that. Washington just reversed the NAFTA rule that allowed Mexican trucks in. If it weren't for the Supreme Court, a massive number of truckers would've quit in self-defense over an OSHA rule. Sacramento is still banning semi tractors over three years old.

    Politicians seem more interested in breaking things than fixing them.
     
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  8. rch

    rch TrainBoard Member

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    The issue with the coming availability policy is its failure to allow time off for employees in unassigned service.

    Employees who work in assigned service, such as in yard jobs or locals, have a regular schedule with assigned days off. It might be a Monday through Friday job with Saturday and Sunday off, but it's far more likely to have less desirable days off like Tuesday and Wednesday. Either way, those employees currently can take one sick day off per month beyond the eight assigned days off.

    Employees in unassigned service are on call and do not have assigned days off. The current system expects those employees to be available for work 75% of the time. Weekdays are considered separately from weekend days, so the current system allows an employee to take five weekdays and two weekend days per month.

    The new system assigns a point value to days depending on how likely the day is to be taken off. For example a weekend day is more valuable than a weekday and a holiday is more valuable than a weekend day. Employees will start with a certain amount of points and each day taken off will deduct points from the total. Run out of points and the employee is subject to dismissal.

    As far as employees in assigned service are concerned the new system doesn't change things much. But those in unassigned service will no longer have those two weekend days and five weekdays per month. In fact, if an employee in unassigned service observed those same 7 days off in a month almost two-thirds of their points would be gone. Less than two months of taking those 7 days off would put the employee in a position to be dismissed.

    The only way to get points back is to work 14 consecutive days and that would only get you one weekend day or two weekdays worth of points back. Take a three-day weekend and you have to work 42 days in a row to get back to the starting point value.

    Now you can use paid days off, such as vacation time, and that won't ding the points, but if the last two years are any indication of what the future will be like good luck getting time off approved. They'd sooner cut you a check in January for unused vacation time than approve time off requests throughout the year. Using a paid day off interrupts the 14 consecutive days you need to work to get more points. Also, you can't go over the starting amount of points and you can't bank them if say you were really eager and wanted to work two months straight.

    Nobody who has worked for the railroad for any length of time has had an expectation they would work the same kind of hours as regular workers. It becomes clear very quickly that you'll go to work on holidays, at odd hours, during power outages, ice storms and heat waves, that you'll miss birthdays, weddings and recitals. You'll be out of town when friends and family wanted you home. Those who don't figure that out don't last long on the railroad.

    And that leaves the people who are still around working on the railroad. They have shown up through each wave of the pandemic, when the schools were closed and kids had to stay home, when the only way to get toilet paper or lysol was to show up at the grocery store and get in line at 7am. They have done their duty as essential workers and have done it proudly, even as their families and marriages have suffered and friends and relatives have passed away because it has to be done to provide for your family. To say this new policy is out of touch misses the mark. It's inhumane to expect your workforce to power through two years of pandemic and time off requests being ignored (all the while creating record profits) to go from 7 days off per month to one or two.

    In more than a decade on the railroad I've never had any trouble with attendance. The only things I've ever gotten for attendance have been letters and postcards thanking me for showing up on holidays or during the pandemic. I like railroads and I like my job as an engineer. I like coming to work. But there's no way - even for somebody like me who wants to be here - to work 42 days in a row in exchange for a long weekend.

    But what about RSIA? Doesn't that guarantee two days off after working six consecutive starts? It does, but 24 hours and 1 minute between starts resets the count, and that can happen when you're at the away-from-home-terminal in the hotel waiting to be called (I had 21.5 hours in the hotel yesterday). Getting called to deadhead also resets the start count. When these loopholes can be exploited by the company to their advantage they are. I was only able to string together six starts three times in 2020 yet I worked more hours than ever before. Same story in 2021.

    A big part of the reason conductor classes aren't filling up like before is the word is out on that job. I would no longer recommend the job to a friend or family member (up to two years ago I would have). I'm not alone on this; traditional railroad towns, where the railroad is a coveted job that you can only get by knowing someone, are having a difficult time filling up conductor classes. There were hundreds of people at the hiring session for my conductor class and only 14 got in, two of whom were alternates for the previous class and one of whom had many years with another class one railroad. If I didn't have family on the railroad I probably wouldn't have gotten the job myself. Well that scene is a distant memory. There aren't enough applications to process to try to put a class together.

    Another reason is it's been years since we had a raise and the cost of everything has gone up during that time, and not by just a little. Moreover similar jobs with far better work-life balance have increased their pay to attract employees. Choosing between a conductor job and another outdoor/physical job doesn't mean working for half the pay anymore.

    On top of that railroads have made it clear they want to eliminate the conductor position. Why take a job with a marginal pay increase and a terrible work-life balance where you might only have the job a year or two? And now you can't take even one day off per week?

    If there's a hiring crisis it is self-inflicted. There are hundreds (thousands?) of furloughed employees across the country who could be called back to work if this was about being short of qualified and trained people. I was furloughed my first year and when I was called back to work I had 30 days to report or I'd forfeit my seniority. These people aren't being called back.

    Do more with less is the name of the game now. Double up trains so fewer crews have to be used (nevermind the fact that it takes the equivalent of an extra crew to put the two trains together and break them apart resulting in zero savings). Eliminate carman jobs and have the train crew inspect and air test the trains. Train crews can't diagnose or repair any bad order cars because they don't have the training to do so. Guess what? They are far less likely to catch bad order cars or spot problems with air tests that aren't as obvious as "these brakes don't work." Fewer bad orders means fewer delays in the short run, until something catastrophic happens. When it does rest assured the conductor who performed the air test in a 2am thunderstorm with only the dying light of a lantern* to inspect the train will be who the railroad blames for negligence.

    Morale is in the toilet and most people are afraid of losing their jobs. The railroad isn't the kind of place where people work for a year or two. People out here have decades of service. Computers in the workplace had Windows 98 installed and there might be one computer in an office connected to the internet when many railroaders left their last regular job to start out switching cars in the yard. The fear of losing your job is only slightly less than the fear of having to find a new job in the social media hellscape where your skills are so outdated they're unrecognizable. Nothing good comes from living and working in fear like that. If you've always got one eye looking over your shoulder you have one less eye to do your job. And with the backstops that used to be there to catch mistakes all but removed, from yard jobs to hostlers to carmen and machinists, to yardmasters and even train masters, even a little doubt or distraction can spiral out of control quickly. Nobody can be perfect 100% of the time, which is why we've always placed such importance on communicating with each other and looking out for each other. Even if you had a regular, predictable schedule, it would be exhausting to work like that all the time. Well we don't have a regular, predictable schedule. It is exhausting. And it's going to be very difficult to keep up with it for a fortnight at a time.

    * You can't get replacement batteries for the lantern at the depot now because we've outsourced that to a contact company. Each employee has to register with them and order their supplies from the contractor. Too bad everything is on backorder because of supply chain problems.
     
  9. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Thank you, @rch. For both the information, and for your service.
     
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  10. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Wow, that's a heck of read, rch.

    I know this as several of my friends have been furloughed. When the layoffs started, folks (around my neck of the woods at least) with 9 years or less seniority were on the chopping block. Why they haven't been called back in light of the above is mind-boggling. You can stay on furlough only so long before you need to find a real job so you can pay your bills. IF those recalls happened, that experience is dated or lost over time, too.
     
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  11. rch

    rch TrainBoard Member

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    I think a lot of us have felt unappreciated for a long time. Yes, there are some knuckleheads out there who have found loopholes and game the system to get lots of time off. It's unpaid time, so maybe they can afford to do it. The vast majority of us are here to make money, put kids through college,, stack retirement funds and provide insurance for ourselves and our family. To put all that time and effort in, especially picking up the slack of the last two years, this policy is a kick in the crotch. Already people are leaving. I will see an improvement in my seniority in the next month.

    As far as furloughed employees are concerned, I had a few of my friends get caught up in the furloughs. I worked with one the other day. I always looked forward to catching him in the yard because he could see the big picture and always stayed ahead of where the other jobs were working (ours is a busy terminal). Anyway we took a trip together and I learned he'd been furloughed for over a year during COVID-19. He was back now to get the insurance going again but already looking for something else.

    Another friend I worked with in the yard for a couple years is currently atop the furlough list in seniority for our terminal. This guy's a great switchman. He's back to wrenching on cars with no plans to return. It goes on and on like that.

    It seems like there's always a couple people in each conductor class that just "get it" and it's clear they will be great at this job with a little experience. Yard jobs, especially industry jobs, are like puzzles. It takes some time to get your bearings (very true at night), but once you have the particulars of a job down it becomes fun. I can think of three people from the last conductor class we had a few years ago who just got it (and three is a high number for one class). Of course they've been furloughed most of this time. I looked the other day and they've all resigned. Who can blame them? After all we are here to make money. I'll bet they're all laughing now at those of us who stick around. Not in a cruel way, but more of a gallows humor, like even our seniority couldn't protect us from getting the shaft.

    Speaking of laughing, my conductor yesterday is one of those people who can keep you in stitches with his stories. We had a good trip and I got off the train feeling good, so it's not all doom and gloom all the time. I just hope I don't get called with Debbie Downer next time!
     
  12. badlandnp

    badlandnp TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks rch for your input and insight. I left the railroad scene in 02, and have never been happier. Well, almost. My favorite job ever was working in private industry rebuilding locomotives! That was fun!

    Back to the class 1. It was supposed to be the ultimate retirement job. Yet it was the most miserable years in my working career. The attitude from the top down was terrible. (There were exceptions, as always) Basically the point was "We are here to sling poo out there and see who it sticks to!" No idea of trying to get the job done efficiently, just worry about what poo is headed from the top next. Or from co-worker trying to get a hard worker fired. That was in mechanical working loco maintenance. There were and are good folk out there working a difficult job in a horrible environment, and the ones I know and have known are good folk. Though I have met many of the deadweights, too.

    I think the only fix is going to be breaking up the huge companies that are out of touch with the reality of the job and have no clue about customer service or employee relations. I remember we had a class on "work force diversity" back in 2000. The presenter was all about various PC phrases and such when one of the old heads asked if all the fancy words didn't just mean 'quota?' The gal just about fell apart trying to say no!! It was a hilarious prelude to the mess that is the companies today.

    Quarterly profits and operating ratio and fuel savings is everything. Employees are expendable. Experience is of very little value. Long term goals are gone. Sad days until they recognize the problems.

    Then maybe they will face the problems, maybe.
     
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  13. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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  14. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Typical of high seated business executives today, Katie's concern is her own self. Career advancement. Prestige. $$$. Anyone, anything which gets stepped upon during the pursuit of her goals, too bad.
     
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  15. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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  16. badlandnp

    badlandnp TrainBoard Member

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    That's an excellent article. Yes, fatigue is a major issue with 'non-schedule' living. Eventually the human body just's goes to sleep, voluntarily or not. Have been there and didn't like sleeping standing up!

    You have to wonder how it is better to have all trains run as 'extras' instead of on Timetable schedules. The whole PSR was supposed to arrange for that, but it is another boondoggle. I guess we will see.
     
  17. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    As much as I like railroads and all, I have absolutely NO desire to work for one. Maybe a shortline or regional, if it would pay the bills, but even regionals have been spun off by class 1s, and re-gobbled-up again. This is why. No home life, no predictability, toxic management; heck, no sleep. How many lives need to be lost before the big class 1s do something positive about fatigue? If they were serious about safety, they'd do more than just corporate lip service to addressing the issue, which is all I picked up on in the articles and write-ups linked. Empty lip service. Corporate public affairs business speak that means nothing and says nothing.
     
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  18. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Yup. Corporate-speak. Lie while keeping a straight face; talk and talk, yet say nothing. The problem is that too many think they actually heard something.
     
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  19. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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  20. Pastor John

    Pastor John TrainBoard Member

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