The Problem With The U.S. Railroad


Jacob Gosz, Reporter

Over the past hundred years, the rail road has been a major source of economic growth, which currently employs over 150,000 employees to date. Over the past few months, thousands of railroad workers that are vital to the economic stability of the government and supply chain, have threatened to go on strike because of the fact that railroad employees have no sick days, and when they call off they are not paid and risk losing their jobs or using up vacation days.


On December 2, 2022, President Joe Biden signed off on legislation making the railroad strike illegal, which will potentially save billions of dollars per day, a possible collapse in the economy, and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. Because of Biden’s actions, railroad workers have called out Biden for reneging his promise to create better work conditions for laborers. 


On Friday, a move to give railroad workers a seven day sick leave was shut down by the Senate because it did not receive the necessary 60 votes. Union leaders are hopeful in Biden’s actions for the railroad, but currently have no guarantees. 


Railroad companies in the U.S. have made well over 25 billion dollars in 2021, which brings up the question of how companies should be regulating workers. Workers often are subjected to odd schedules, which calls for long hours and unpredictable shifts. This change comes from rail companies lowering workers, which maximizes profits and lowers costs.


Over the past 30 years, railroad companies have implemented PSR, or Precision Railroad Scheduling. This method uses longer trains, which constantly has cars in motion, and raises the operating ratio along with stock prices for shareholders. This strategy theoretically should work perfectly, but does not because of the many inconsistencies. Because of PSR, many workers have experienced safety concerns, unethical work conditions, and long abnormal hours. 


Without a major change in railroad regulations, there is potential for a nationwide collapse of the economy and could leave thousands of workers jobless. The railroad is one of the last labor industries to not give sick leave to their employees, which is unethical and inhumane. Going forward, the 2024 election is going to become extremely important to railroad union workers and could become a major source of voter turnout for those running.