Norfolk Southern, union wins paid leave

Norfolk Southern Corp. An engine truck drives past the Lamberts Point coal loading facility in Norfolk, Virginia, Wednesday, March 17, 2010.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

South Norfolk On Wednesday, it agreed to give members of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Blacksmiths up to seven paid sick days a year.

The deal will give Norfolk Southern’s mechanics four paid sick days a year, in addition to the three paid days off that can currently be used as sick days. The IBBB is now the ninth of 12 Norfolk South unions to negotiate paid sick days benefiting around 6,000 workers.

The move follows months of conflict between unions and rail workers, including Norfolk Southern. Pacific Union and BNSF – exceeds paid sick leave. President Joe Biden signed a bill to prevent a nationwide railroad strike in late 2022. The legislation does not provide for paid leave.

Norfolk Southern announced the deal as the company grapples with the political and environmental fallout from the derailment of a train carrying toxic materials last month in East Palestine, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border. Company and government officials said the region is safe to live in after the natural disaster, although some workers and residents have complained of illness. Ohio sued the company on Tuesday.

The paid leave agreement comes two days after Norfolk Southern Railway reached an agreement with the Carmen Brotherhood and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Last week, the company announced agreements with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, Transportation Workers, the Mechanical Department and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The company reached an agreement with two other unions in February, and the other two were able to access paid sick leave benefits.

“We will continue to take steps to improve the quality of life for our railroad workers in partnership with our unions,” said Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw. “Our railroad workers help drive the American economy forward, and each of these new agreements will help ensure they have more time to manage their personal health and well-being.”

Norfolk Southern had no comment beyond its previously released statements.

In February, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and Mike Brown, R-Ind., required rail carriers to offer workers at least seven paid sick days. Sanders called on railroad companies to “do the right thing,” citing record profits for carriers. Sanders’ office said railroad companies spent 184% more on shareholder returns than on workers’ wages and benefits.

“At the end of the day, we can’t have workers doing dangerous jobs in 2023 without a sick day,” Sanders said.

— CNBC’s Laurie Ann LaRocco contributed to this report.

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