Railroad workers protest BNSF attack on unions and conditions

By Joe Swanson
May 16, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. — For three hours in a cold rain April 3, over 40 working train conductors and locomotive engineers, members of the SMART-Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen that work for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, along with a few full-time SMART-TD union officials, picketed here outside the annual stockholders’ meeting of Berkshire Hathaway. The company is  Warren Buffett’s multinational conglomerate that runs the railroad. 

Thousands of stockholders attended the meeting. 

“They’re going after everything the union stands for, particularly safe work conditions,” said Bill Hansen, a 48-year-old BNSF conductor who drove from Creston, Iowa. “I have co-workers with over 15 years seniority quitting their careers and getting other jobs because of increasing company harassment and firings on attendance policies, and the work becoming more unsafe.” 

Railroad workers haven’t had a contract or a raise since mid-2019, despite union efforts to reach agreement. In addition, the rail bosses have unilaterally imposed a new, more onerous, work-attendance policy that the unions have demanded be subject to negotiations. 

“Respect our rights to work safely!” “Railroaders’ lives matter!” “Fair wages, fair treatment!” and “Help our workers to protect your community!” were among signs carried by the union rail workers.