Vice General Chairperson to NS CEO: Protect your train operators

Published: April 13, 2020

The CEO of Norfolk Southern, James A. Squires, recently asked employees for feedback concerning the carrier’s responsiveness to the COVID-19 pandemic. SMART Transportation Division has been gathering reports about how carriers are complying during the outbreak of coronavirus. As one of those employees deemed “essential,” SMART-TD Vice General Chairperson Robert M. Levkulich (GCA-898) sent the following email to NS’s top boss to express his opinion, which is reproduced here with Brother Levkulich’s permission:

Mr. Squires, as the outside world continues to spiral out of control, it feels as if it’s just another day along the railroad. As Transportation employees, we read daily updates that Norfolk Southern has taken to protect its office workers, in Atlanta and Norfolk, but in yard offices around the system, it’s business as usual.

For conductors and engineers operating across Norfolk Southern, we have been categorized as an essential part of our nation’s infrastructure, and essential in the fight against Covid-19. Since conductors and engineers are deemed essential, then so should our safety and well-being.

Norfolk Southern used to prioritize the safety of its employees, but recently the only priority has been to get to a 60 OR. I have visited numerous yard offices, and I’ve seen a lot of things that impressed me. But these were from individuals. I saw a conductor who brought masks his wife and kids had sewn in for his fellow crew members. I saw an engineer carrying in bottles of home made hand sanitizer to distribute in the yard office. And finally I saw a Road Manager that was carrying in an arm full of sanitizer that he used his own money to pay for. These individuals taking care of each other are inspiring stories but are void of Norfolk Southern.

Companies across this nation are stepping up to show their employees they care. As Transportation employees we have seen drastic financial loss due to the “chase for a 60 OR” and now with COVID-19 and closures, we have taken another hit.

Ally Financial took unprecedented steps to show its 8700 employees they care. Below are excerpts from Forbes Magazine article dates 4/6/20:

  • All employees making $100,000 or less in annual base compensation will receive a $1,200 tax-free financial assistance payment to help cover unexpected costs related to working from home.
  • Ally added 100% coverage for diagnostic testing and the associated visit related to COVID-19.
  • Immediate paid medical leave for any employee diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • Expanded childcare support: When daycare or adult/elder care arrangements are disrupted, Ally will cover 30 uses of emergency care.
  • Employees with monthly or quarterly incentive plans were assured that Ally would account for COVID-19 impacts to operations.
  • Access to free mental health professionals, via phone or text, through the Employee Assistance Program.
  • 100% coverage for virtual doctor visits and online health care services.
  • Paid caregiver leave for employees caring for an ill family member.
  • Well-being modules and challenges geared to staying physically and mentally healthy at home

These are great examples of what a company can do do to protect its employees.

So Mr. Squires my question is, What will Norfolk Southern do for its most valuable, and essential employees?

Robert M. Levkulich
Vice General Chairman
Southern Lines GCA-898
SMART Transportation Division