February 24, 2023

You may recall that when President Biden and the Democratic Congress averted a rail strike late last year, they could not get enough support for seven days of paid sick leave for workers.

But now, with Norfolk Southern’s safety practices under scrutiny since the toxic derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, the railroad has suddenly decided to grant four workdays of sick leave to maintenance employees. Workers will also be allowed to use up to three paid personal days as paid sick leave, Raw Story reported.

Norfolk Southern is the third railroad to reach an agreement granting its workers sick days this week. Union Pacific and CSX have also reached sick leave agreements with workers, according to FreightWaves. “The agreements come as U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg on Tuesday called for the railroads to adopt sick leave policies for all their employees. Buttigieg’s recommendation was part of a broader outline for the rail industry, DOT and Congress to respond to rail safety issues raised because of the fiery Feb. 3 derailment of an NS train in East Palestine, Ohio,” FreightWaves also reported.

Although granting a few paid sick days would seem like the bare minimum of humane benefits, it’s also a safety issue:

Other worker protections are probably overdue, too.

More from Raw Story:

Our members are tasked with rebuilding the track of the [East] Palestine derailment and it is imperative that they have resources available that keep them safe and healthy at a site that many would be apprehensive to work," [union representative Clark] Ballew said. "Paid sick time is one of those resources, but there are several others, and we expect NS to start doing right by their employees and the public and afford all resources necessary to not exacerbate an already bad situation.

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