JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Clad in rain gear and dodging early morning showers, a group of rail workers rallied Friday outside the headquarters of Genesee & Wyoming’s Railroad Engineering Services near JTB and Hodges in Jacksonville after they say the company fired more than 30 people because they joined a union.
The workers have also filed a lawsuit in federal court.
In the lawsuit, rail workers said this was a form of retaliation and it was aimed at the most vocal members.
The lawsuit established a timeline showing how the employees say this all played out. It reads, “Back in April, the Railroad Engineering Services employees voted 39 to 9 to join the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division.”
It goes on to specifically reference a group known as “Tie Gang 2,” which it said included 31 of the most passionate union supporters.
Fast forward to May, it says the BMWED sent RES its intent to negotiate a first contract. Three days later, it said the Tie Gang 2 was called into a meeting, told it was being disbanded, and that all 31 employees were being fired.
“Those members are struggling. They’ve tried to go out and find work immediately. They need paychecks. They need to be able to feed their babies,” said Thomas Kirby, director of organizing for BMWED. “So we’ve got a lot of members, some were fortunate enough to be able to get out and find good jobs. Some of them are still looking.”
Reese Saulter, vice president for BMWED, said those men and women being permanently off the clock could be a safety risk.
“There’s a shortage of railroad workers in the country, and we want them workers to get back to doing, making sure that my family, your family are safe. And that’s what they do. They make sure stuff it’s safe for us. So, we don’t have another East Palestine,” Saulter said.
Saulter, who helped organize the event, said the goal is to get the union members back to work.
“Get them compensated and then ask G & W Services to come to the table and negotiate with us, like we’re supposed to do under the Railroad Labor Act,” Saulter said. “And come to a good contract for these members and improve their quality of life and safety conditions on the railroad tracks.”
A spokesperson for Genesee and Wyoming’s Railroad Engineering Services provided this statement when asked for comment:
While Railroad Engineering Services (RES) cannot comment on pending litigation, it recognizes The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way members’ right to peacefully protest.