Potential BNSF strike could affect North Dakotans

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 7:31 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - This week, railroad unions surveyed their members. More than 17,000 Burlington Northern Railroad union workers could be involved in the strike nationwide.

A significant amount of North Dakota commerce moves by train.

“It would significantly impact the state’s economy, yes. But not a crippling blow like it would’ve been to oil two years ago, pre-DAPL,” said president of the North Dakota Petroleum Council Ron Ness.

While the blow to oil might not be crippling, that’s not necessarily the case for other industries.

“It would certainly impact all sectors, but yeah, from North Dakota, the Burlington Northern is our largest shipper in the state,” said policy and marketing director for the North Dakota Wheat Commission Jim Peterson.

More than 60% of crops exported from North Dakota travel by BNSF Railway.

This week, BNSF announced a new system that according to the company, “is designed to provide employees with real-time information and greater flexibility, so they can make informed decisions about their work schedules.”

The new attendance policy operates via a point system, where each employee has 30 points. Workers would be docked 2 points for every weekday taken off, 4 points for days on weekends and 10 points for holidays. Attendance falling below zero points could solicit a suspension or termination.

In a statement, the SMART Transportation Union said of the policy: “So-called ‘forced overtime’ in an industry where safety is so critical not only repudiates our agreements, it stands to enact irreparable harm on hundreds of full-time employees whose non-workplace obligations prevent them from being at work every day of their life.”

BNSF’s new attendance policy is set to go into effect on February 1st.

In response to the threat of a strike, BNSF is asking a federal judge to prevent its workers from striking, claiming the issue is a minor dispute and therefore not protected under federal law. In its lawsuit, BNSF claimed additional strain placed on the supply chain could cause “wide-ranging harm to the national economy.”

Copyright 2022 KFYR. All rights reserved.