Members of the SMART Transportation Division and other unionized rail workers came together for a day of protest on May 10 outside the North American Rail Shippers (NARS) annual meeting.
Early in the day, SMART TD Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo, TD Auxiliary President Kathryn Seegmiller and many other union members, spouses and supporters spent hours outside and around the Kansas City Marriott Downtown in Kansas City, Mo., to draw attention to Class I carriers’ Precision Scheduled Railroading scheme, BNSF’s “Hi-Viz” attendance policy and the fact that National Rail Contract negotiations are approaching a third year.
“We had people joining in just walking by, people honking showing support as they drove by,” Dragoo said. “We had people from many different Class 1 railroads there, not just BNSF.”
Dragoo thanked many of the lead organizers of the event, including SMART TD National Safety Team Alternate Director — East and Kansas State Legislative Secretary Dan Bonawitz (Local 1409, Kansas City, Kan.), Kansas State Alternate Legislative Secretary Mike Scheerer (Local 94, Kansas City, Kan.), Legislative Representative Tim Alexander (Local 1532, Kansas City, Kan.) and Local 1532 Trustee Matt Collins, as well as 1532 member Jason Bluett and member Rodney Sparks of Local 5 (Kansas City, Mo.).
“Dan Bonawitz and his team have done a tremendous job getting the word out. These events are crucial as we wage the war of public opinion in legislatures across the country and Congress,” Dragoo said. “Citizens need to know that their communities are in danger not only by reducing crews from a public safety standpoint, but the economic impact that has on communities when good union jobs leave. We will keep the fight up, and we won’t back down!”
“The goal of this informational picket was to raise awareness with the public of the BNSF Railway policies that are not only degrading our workforce and harming our families but directly impacting our communities and increasing the cost of goods for all Americans,” he told reporter Mark DeLap. “The informational picket was also an effort to spotlight how BNSF Railway is directly at fault for the regressive policies causing these hardships.”
The demonstration outside the NARS gathering, which was attended by C-suite-level executives from many of the Class I freight railroads, was not the only coordinated demonstration that has taken place.
More than 100 people took part in informational pickets in Guernsey and Gillette, Wyo., Local 465 Chairman Kevin Knutson told the Platte County Record Times.
“We, as families, friends, employees and retirees, have never experienced such an antagonistic approach to a workforce and their employees before,” Knutson said.
Additional events will continue to be organized at all levels in order to inform the public and other groups about the concerns of rail workers.
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