‘They need sick days’ | Wife of Union Pacific conductor says bill fails to include leave for ill rail workers

The House voted Wednesday on legislation that includes a pay raise, but no sick leave for rail workers.

SAN ANTONIO — The U.S. House of Representatives is moving forward on a bill to block a rail shutdown.

On Wednesday, lawmakers voted in favor of imposing a labor agreement on a dozen rail unions. The deal includes a pay raise, cash bonuses and an additional day off for workers.

For some unions, the contract sounds fair. However, for others, it doesn’t address rail workers biggest demand.

A Pleasanton woman told KENS 5 that her husband wants paid sick time as part of the deal. The demand is in line with what unions and workers nationwide have begged for months.

Vanessa Andrews-Adcock is the wife of a Union Pacific conductor who has been on the job for nearly 20 years. She said her husband loves his job but wants better benefits and a safer working environment.

He’s also a member of the SMART Transportation Division, which is one of the largest railroad labor unions in the nation. Recently, SMART-TD rejected a proposed labor agreement raising the likelihood of a strike.

On Wednesday, the House intervened by passing a measure to block a walk out. The deal specifically includes a 24 percent pay increase over five years, $5,000 in bonuses and an extra day of paid time off.

“This agreement is very stressful and emotional,” said Andrews-Adcock. They said it doesn’t address worker’s biggest demand of paid sick time. Unions also argue the railroads, which had record profits last year, are enjoying even higher profits this year — so railroads can afford to meet demands.

“They need sick days, they have zero sick days as of right now,” said Andrews-Adcock.

She also wants more downtime for workers in between shifts and insurance premiums capped, which would be done at 15 percent of the total cost of the insurance plan, according to the deal.

The bill will now head to the Senate, but senators have little time to act. Rail workers are vowing to strike on December 9 if a new agreement can’t be reached.

Andrews-Adcock hopes lawmakers realize how their vote could affect her family.

“Congress, I hope you take into consideration what you are doing to all of these men and women out on the railroad busting their rears daily,” she said.

 It isn’t uncommon for Congress to intervene in labor disputes. In recent decades, lawmakers have been known to pass laws to delay or prohibit rail strikes.

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