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'We're just looking for a fair contract' | Railroad workers rally Saturday in Galesburg

After years of negotiations without a new contract, railroad workers are frustrated and demand better working conditions.

GALESBURG, Ill. — More than a hundred people rallied Saturday, July 30 in Galesburg to protest the working conditions for fright train workers across the country.

The workers and unions have been negotiating with rail companies since late 2019. The freight train workers said they want higher wages, better hours and to be treated respectfully.

Protestors gathered in front of the Carl Sandburg statue in the downtown area, marching around the traffic circle with signs.

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Representatives from over a dozen unions were at the rally, including Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division Local Vice President Nick Allen. 

"We're just looking for a fair contract for ourselves and our families, looking for the pay raises that we haven't received since our contract ended in 2020," Allen said. "We're just looking to be able to continue to support our families and for what they have to go through for us working on the railroad."

Workers said companies are also trying to reduce crew members on a train down from two to one, a move they claimed is a safety issue.

SMART-TD Illinois Alternate Legislative Director Jordan Boone said that one-man operations are especially dangerous when the train is carrying hazardous cargo. 

"We've had disasters in Canada, blowing up whole towns with a one-man crew operation," Boone said. "We run through this town, and we need to be able to get a guy on the ground as soon as possible. And if there's only one person up there, they can't get off that motor."

Despite the concerns, rail workers and unions were hopeful for change. 

"We're hoping these demonstrations that we are presenting today will help push the Presidential Emergency Board and Class I railroad to consider giving us a fair contract," Allen said.

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