Norfolk Southern, union reach paid sick leave deal

Norfolk Southern, union reach paid sick leave deal

A Norfolk Southern Corp motor car. moves through the Lamberts Point coal handling facility in Norfolk, Virginia on Wednesday, March 17, 2010.

Andreas Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Norfolk in the south said on Wednesday it had agreed to give members of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Blacksmiths up to seven paid sick days a year.

The contract provides Norfolk Southern mechanical railway workers with four paid sick days per year, in addition to the three existing paid holidays which can now be used as sick days. The IBBB is now the ninth of 12 unions in Norfolk Southern to negotiate paid sick leave benefiting around 6,000 workers.

The move comes after months of fighting between unions and railroads – including Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and BNSF – Overpaid Sick Leave. President Joe Biden signed legislation in late 2022 to avert a nationwide rail strike. However, the law did not provide for paid sick leave.

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

The paid sick leave agreement comes two days after Norfolk Southern reached agreements with the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen 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, Mechanical Department and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The company reached agreements with two other unions in February, while two others already had access to paid sick pay.

“We continue to make strides to improve the quality of life for our craft rail workers in partnership with our unions,” said Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw. “Our railroad workers help power America’s economy, and each of these new agreements helps give them even more time to take care of their personal health and well-being.”

Norfolk Southern did not comment beyond its previously released statements.

In February, Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Mike Braun, R-Ind., requested that railroad companies offer workers at least seven paid sick days. Sanders urged railroad companies to “do the right thing,” noting record airline profits. Sanders’ office said railroad companies spend 184% more on shareholder returns than they do on employee wages and benefits.

“Ultimately, in 2023, it’s unacceptable that workers doing hazardous work don’t get a single sick day,” Sanders said at the time.

–CNBC’s Lori Ann LaRocco contributed to this report.