Rail workers respond to CSX CEO's critique
- The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) recently wrote a letter to CSX CEO Hunter Harrison, protesting his negative reference to worker performance at CSX as he explained disruptions to shippers, Jacksonville.com reports.
- The union says it believes its workers' professionalism had been attacked, citing their ongoing efforts to persevere on the job in spite of furloughs, harsh treatment and repeated violations of their collective bargaining agreements.
- Another union representing CSX workers, the Teamsters affiliated Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, told Jacksonville.com the SMART letter addressed their concerns. The report noted issues of low morale and unproductive scheduling are weighing on the workers as well.
The first week of August was tough for CSX, as a series of events — including the SMART letter — suggest a growing state of disarray at the company.
On Wednesday, August 2, a CSX train carrying flammable liquid asphalt derailed in Hyndman, PA, forcing residents living within one mile of the rail line to evacuate. Although a total of six cars derailed, no injuries occurred. Later that day, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against the railroad for using strength testing as a job requirement, claiming the test — and related practices — had a discriminatory effect on female workers.
The week's event cap a saga of discord at the company, stemming from a new strategy being implemented by the company's CEO, which has led to thousands of layoffs, yard closures, and deteriorating customer service. In late July, the Surface Transportation Board wrote a letter to Harrison, demanding the CEO explain its service disruptions to shippers. But, in that letter to shippers, the CEO noted service disruptions were caused by employee pushback, and were not an indication of a plan going off course.
Harrison said he would address employee discord, but the EEOC lawsuit and letter from SMART suggest it will be a long road before the company boosts morale. However, CSX stocks held steady last week, suggesting investors are holding on to a hope that Harrison will succeed in the long-run.
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