Wyoming Rail Unions Planning Cheyenne Rally on Dec. 13
On Tuesday, Wyoming's Sheet Metal Air Rail and Transportation (SMART) Workers and the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations are planning a rally in Cheyenne.
The rally is an attempt to raise awareness for the mistreatment of rail workers by railroad companies over the past few years after Congress at the federal level forced rail workers to accept a contract that didn't include any guaranteed sick days.
Tamsin Johnson, the executive secretary of the Wyoming AFL-CIO, said they're holding the rally to show people the negative impact railroad policies have had on its workers.
"This isn't about striking, this isn't about walking off the job, this is about showing rail workers that we appreciate what they've done through the pandemic, and how they've stayed the course and kept goods moving in this country when we needed it most, and we still need it...Quite frankly, workers are tired of giving up their family time, the time that they have with the quality of life and dignity on the job so that shareholders can continue to line their pockets and get richer and richer and richer," Johnson said. "These companies make billions of profit a quarter and they won't even spend the money to give workers paid sick leave? So I'm hoping that this rally will call to attention what's happening with these workers and how much the companies are abusing them and their willingness to work just so the companies can make more profit."
According to a letter sent to President Joe Biden and signed by 70 members of Congress, none from Wyoming, adding seven days of sick leave would cost rail companies $321 million dollars which they claim is less than 2% of their annual profits.
Johnson said that by voting to stop workers from striking, Wyoming's congressional delegation turned its back on rail workers in Wyoming.
"Cynthia Lummis put out a letter that was to all the senators and she and another senator put out a letter and in it, she said, 'don't give these workers the seven sick days, it will cost the railroads million.' It will cost the railroads millions when they're making billions every quarter? It's hard for me to understand that. Why one of our senators would turn their back on the workers who carry the goods and carry the coal and carry the trona out of this state? Don't forget, those are industries that would be heavily impacted by this and the rail workers are people who are doing that work every day and I'm disappointed. Our congressional delegation turned its back on the rail workers in this state."
While there is a rally planned in Cheyenne, there are also rallies planned across the country in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, and Utah.
Johnson said several factors will make it harder for more people to show up to the rally in Cheyenne.
"I think the storm is gonna impact that, we've got people coming in from Gillette and Casper and Laramie...but despite the weather, our local rail workers will be out there," Johnson said. "And here's the thing, it's hard for them to come because they're on the job. They don't get to leave their job. They don't get to lay off, not that they would layoff from work to do this, but they don't get days off. They come in, they sleep, they go back out. And that's what the community needs to understand is happening. And so, how could they show up?"
April Ford, the Wyoming state legislative director for SMART, said they've tried to get the Wyoming legislature to pass a bill requiring rail companies to have two-man crews, as there's been talk of going down to one-man crews, but have been unsuccessful so far.
"We are excited to introduce a bill this year for rail safety improvements. They can do a lot...we've ran bills before asking for support of a two-man crew bill numerous years in a row. It just gets so far, it hasn't gone all the way, so I'm hoping that this year with the rail safety improvement, it'll cover a lot of different areas and hopefully, we can get that a little bit further down the road and get it passed this year."
Ford said that they plan on holding another rally for the legislation around Wyoming's legislative session next year, though they haven't gotten any specific details yet.