Duluth railway workers rally for better PTO

Northern News Now at 10pm
Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 9:37 PM CST
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) -- This month, President Biden signed a bill averting a nationwide rail workers’ strike.

It provided a new contract for thousands of workers nationwide, but they’re not all happy with it.

So Tuesday, across the country, local unions held a solidarity rally.

Despite a contract that will see a 24% pay increase over five years, railway workers say the train hasn’t quite left the station.

“We’re talking about the contract that was imposed on us by Congress, we’re talking about what’s good about it and what’s lacking and what our options are, what’s our next step. We did not get the seven paid sick days that we were looking for,” said Nick Katich, the Minnesota Legislative Director for SMART.

SMART is a labor union that represents thousands of rail workers.

Nationwide, SMART held rallies on Tuesday, from Duluth to Minneapolis to the main one in Washington D.C.

Duluth’s rally saw support from local elected officials.

“Labor is what makes this city and this country work and though they’ve had a partial settlement, they need to have benefits that contribute to the quality of life and having sick time is so important,” said City Councilor Terese Tomanek.

The current contract does not include guaranteed paid sick time off, which workers say is one of their main concerns.

Katich said the rally is about continued support for railway workers, with the hope more change could come soon.

“I’m really really proud of my members and the community and other labor unions who have come out to show their support for us, just listening to all the horns honk on Garfield Avenue is really good for the heart,” Katich said.

Katich said another issue workers want to be addressed is crew size.

They’d like it to be mandated that every operating train has a minimum of two people on its crew: a certified conductor and a certified engineer.

The Federal Railroad Administration is holding a public hearing on that very issue Wednesday.