In a surprise move welcomed by workers, U.S. freight rail companies have recently granted paid sick days to almost half their workforce.
The Guardian reports that, after being roundly criticized for not offering paid sick days, BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific have granted many of their 93,000 workers four paid sick days a year through labor negotiations, with an option of taking three more paid sick days from personal days.
“We’ve made a lot of progress,” said Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, the main U.S. labor federation. “The rail companies miscalculated about how the public would see their huge profits and the stories of how hard rail workers’ lives were and not having sick days and the draconian policies they were operating under.”
For years, freight rail workers weren’t allowed to call in sick the morning of their shift. They could, however, get approval weeks in advance to take paid personal days.
The White House has taken some credit for the advances on paid sick days. When the first deals were announced, the press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said the deals follow “continued advocacy and involvement from the Biden administration”.
After CSX led the way, Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, and Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, called on other railroads to grant paid sick days.
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