Railroad employees have labored for years under harsh contracts that do not allow them to call in sick. Rail companies say they could not afford more sick time, although they were able to spend $25.5 billion this year to buy back their own stock and hand out huge dividends to wealthy shareholders. Four national rail unions rejected the latest tentative agreement, which continues to deny them any sick time. President Biden and Congress then imposed a settlement on rail unions denying them the right to strike. In order to soften the blow, most House Democrats, including Richard Neal, voted to add 7 sick days to the contract. “A multibillion-dollar industry that is engaged in buybacks, that has doubled its profit margins during the pandemic, should not be able to force its workers to come in when they are sick and injured,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
On December 9, more than 70 House and Senate members sent President Biden a letter urging him to do everything he can to guarantee rail workers seven days of paid sick leave. Congressman Neal did not sign on.
“Quite frankly, the fact that paid leave is not part of the final agreement between railroads and labor is, in my opinion, obscene,” said Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.