Members of the SMART Transportation Division and other unionized rail workers came together for a day of protest May 10 outside the North American Rail Shippers (NARS) annual meeting.
Early in the day, SMART TD Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo, New Mexico State Legislative Director Don Gallegos, 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 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.
“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 newspaper 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.
“We, as families, friends, employees and retirees, have never experienced such an antagonistic approach to a workforce and their employees before,” Knutson said.
A protest coordinated by TD officers, the SMART TD Auxiliary and other rail labor groups also occurred April 30 at BNSF parent company Berkshire Hathaway’s shareholder meeting.
Another rally was hosted by the Lee County Labor Chapter on Sunday, May 15 in Ft. Madison, Iowa. Dozens showed up at the informational protest and a news crew from ABC-affiliate WQAD8 was on hand to interview the protestors about their dissatisfaction with the Class I carriers.
There are two more informational protests scheduled in the greater Chicago area on May 25 and 26.
The first protest will be at the CN Glass Palace on Wednesday, May 26 at 5:30 a.m. Those attending should meet up on the corner of Ashland Ave. and Maple Rd.; or 1657 Maple Rd., Homewood, IL 60430. For more information see the first picture at the end of this post.
The second protest will be Thursday, May 26 at 5:30 a.m. at the Union Pacific Proviso Yard at 5050 W. Lake St., Melrose Park, IL 60160. For more information, see the second picture below.
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.