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Union Pacific and SMART-TD hash out sick leave deal

Pending ratification, UP will have sick leave agreements with all 13 of its unions

Union Pacific and SMART-TD have reached a sick leave deal. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Union Pacific has reached a sick leave agreement with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD), the union group that represents train conductors.

The tentative agreement, which would affect around 5,900 employees, provides up to eight paid sick leave days, UP (NYSE: UNP) said Sunday. The agreement consists of five additional paid sick days annually that would be prorated for 2023, and then the potential to convert up to three paid leave days as paid sick time in 2023, UP said.

If SMART-TD members ratify this contract, UP will have sick leave agreements for all 13 of its labor unions. UP would be the second U.S.-based Class I railroad to do so, following Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC).

“I want to thank SMART-TD leadership for their support as we work together to create an environment where employees feel valued, supported and empowered to deliver exceptional service to our customers,” UP President and CEO Lance Fritz said in a release. “We are committed to continued collaboration with our labor partners and employees to further identify opportunities that support our best-in-class workforce.”

SMART-TD members have already ratified two sick leave agreements, one with NS and the other involving some members working for CSX (NASDAQ: CSX).  Some union members also received additional sick leave with BNSF (NYSE: BRK-B). 

Meanwhile, discussions on scheduled rest between UP and SMART-TD are ongoing, UP said Sunday. UP described scheduled rest as allowing employees to have more predictable schedules while enabling the railroad to better manage staffing levels. In May, UP reached a deal on scheduling with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, another union whose members tend to have schedules in flux.

In response to the deal with UP, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said in a Monday release: “Our members made it very clear in 2022 that quality-of-life issues and the ability to provide stability for their families in times of medical crisis was of the utmost importance. On-demand sick days that do not amount to discipline from their employer are a historic step in the right direction for these men and women, and I am very proud of the effort that our General Chairmen on the UP properties put in to make this happen.”

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  1. Ron Kaminkow

    The Class Ones did not change their tune because they suddenly became humane, moral, or decent. They did not bargain sick leave provisions because they suddenly understood the importance of it to the health and well-being of their employees. And they certainly did not bargain it because of union officials’ prowess at the bargaining table (we saw how ineffective that had been for the previous 2.5 years already). No, the carriers were brought to heel because the rank and file raised hell, went public, fought back, won allies, gained favorable media coverage, defied the carriers along with the wishes of the PEB, the politicians, and the union officials. Had we not, the carriers would have had no incentive whatsoever to bargain sick time, period. The proof is that – in the absence of this workers’ movement – for three years previously behind-closed-doors bargaining had produced nothing. In the face of such an uprising – fearing that the Congress just might foist legislation upon them with more generous terms and conditions for the workforce – the carriers relented, accepting some limited paid sick leave provisions, now posturing in front of God and everyone to appear reasonable and responsible, while just a few months earlier were ready to risk a national rail shutdown before agreeing to even a single day of sick leave. Ron Kaminkow, Organizer, Railroad Workers United

  2. Stephen Webster

    We need federal gov to require paid sick days like Canada 🇨🇦 and most of Europe has 12 paid sick days a year for many essential workers and proper medical care

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.