BNSF employees react to judge’s ruling that blocks strike

Published: Jan. 26, 2022 at 6:19 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Tuesday, a federal court granted a temporary restraining order to the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, blocking 17,000 workers nationwide from striking. Wednesday, Your News Leader spoke to BNSF workers to see how they feel about the judge’s ruling.

Train conductors have a demanding schedule. They’re on-call 24/7, 365. Your News Leader spoke to a few BNSF conductors about what the job requires and how they feel about the new attendance policy. To protect our sources, we’ve kept their identities anonymous.

Train conductors can work up to twelve hours at a time. Then, they get 10 and a half hours of rest and they’re on-call again. They travel to and from locations around the region, and oftentimes spend full days away from home.

“It’s not like you can schedule a doctor’s appointment. I mean, that’s the hardest part about this. If I have an appointment on Friday, I would have to take today off or tomorrow off to make sure I can make that appointment on Friday. Because going to work today, I might not be back in time for that appointment on Friday,” said one employee.

With the new attendance system from BNSF, where workers are granted 30 points for the rest of their careers, taking three days off could be costly.

“To make one appointment, that’s 15 points of my allotted lifetime 30 points,” said the employee from before.

To make just four of those points back, the conductor would have to work for 14 days straight. Another BNSF employee we spoke to said the current attendance policy would drastically change their already-demanding work schedule.

“One of my coworkers worked it out: going by the schedule that they have right now, of paid days off, they would be fired or out of points within 105 days,” said one employee.

BNSF said in a statement they were pleased with Tuesday’s ruling, adding: “We continue to take employee feedback on the program and that feedback is being reviewed. BNSF team members drive our success and we couldn’t deliver the nation’s goods without them.”

The court order said a strike would cause BNSF “substantial, immediate, and irreparable harm.”

Conductors we spoke to are hopeful the judge’s decision this week isn’t the end of the dispute. The case is likely to be appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

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