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Union Pacific agrees to paid sick leave with 2 unions

Union Pacific said Monday that it has reached an agreement with two unions on paid sick days for their members. The announcement comes as the White House pushes for more railways to offer paid sick leave to their employees. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Union Pacific said Monday that it has reached an agreement with two unions on paid sick days for their members. The announcement comes as the White House pushes for more railways to offer paid sick leave to their employees. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Freight-hauling railroad Union Pacific announced Monday that it has reached an agreement with two unions to provide their members with paid sick days, becoming the second major U.S. railroad to offer its employees the sought-after benefit this year.

Union Pacific announce it had reached an agreement with the National Conference of Fireman and Oilers and the Brotherhood of Railway Carman in a statement published to Twitter that explained employees represented by the two unions will receive access to up to seven paid days for sickness.

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"Union Pacific employees currently receive paid personal days off, and we will continue to work with other unions to address paid sick-time solutions," it said.

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Paid sick leave has been a sticking point for unions amid railway negotiations that saw President Joe Biden sign legislation in early December to prevent a national railroad strike.

The legislation noticeably did not include improved sick days, resulting in some unions to continue the fight, and Biden vowing to support them.

The Brotherhood of Railway Carmen said its agreement will provide all of its members working for Union Pacific with four days of paid sick leave and will permit members to designate the use of their personal leave days for health reasons.

NCFO said its agreement, which goes into effect April 1, will see its members receive 24 hours of paid sick leave this year, which will increase to 32 hours in 2024. NCFO members will be able to use these hours in a minimum of half day or one day increments.

"This agreement recognizes the need for railroad workers to have paid sick leave and secures this very important benefit for our members working at Union Pacific," Brotherhood of Railway Carmen General President Don Grissom said in a statement. "Union Pacific did the right thing by coming to the bargaining table and reaching a fair agreement."

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NCFO President Dean Devita similarly applauded Union Pacific for being open to the negotiations and called on other railways to do the same.

"It is time for all the railroads to stop avoiding this issue and follow the lead of Union Pacific and join the NCFO at the bargaining table to do what is right for their employees and the NCFO members," Devita said in a statement.

"If they continue to refuse, we will take this fight back to Congress and expose any railroad that won't enter into a sick leave agreement," he said.

"It makes more sense reaching agreement across the bargaining table, but, if not, we will do what we have to do."

The agreement follows CSX Transportation, which is also a Class 1 railroad, making several agreements with a total of six unions -- including the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen and the NCFO -- between Feb. 7 and Feb. 14.

Meanwhile, the White House has committed to securing sick leave for rail workers, which Biden promised to continue to fight for when he signed the railway strike-averting bill on Dec. 2.

White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre told reporters during a Feb. 9 press gaggle that CSX's agreements followed "continued advocacy and involvement from the Biden administration."

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"Securing paid sick leave for rail workers will continue to be a priority for the president," she said. "And we are strongly urging other rail companies to follow suit."

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