Senate leaves Two Person Crew legislation out of infrastructure bill.
October 06, 2021
Many communities and safety advocates celebrated when the House infrastructure bill was released. The cause for celebration was a long fought battle to include Two Person Crew legislation in the infrastructure bill. Unfortunately, the Senate would ultimately end this celebration too soon.
SMART-TD and BLET, the two unions representing railroad conductors and engineers, have been fighting for crew size legislation for over a decade. Corporate railroads have been pushing to eliminate one of the two crew members in order to raise profits despite record profits for many of the companies in the latest quarterly reports.
The crew size legislation is seen as necessary for both worker safety and the safety of the communities the trains run through. Mike Rankin, a conductor for 15 years, has shared his story of saving a life after a collision with a vehicle at a crossing. Mike has stated that saving his life was only possible with a two person crew. Rankin was able to work together with the engineer to cut the train in two pieces in order to allow emergency vehicles access to the injured civilian.
Stories like Rankin's are common among railroad workers who have fought hard to get crew size legislation passed. This was the cause for celebration when the House infrastructure bill included crew size legislation. Unfortunately this excitement was short lived as the bill reached the Senate.
Rather than pass the bill as it was, the Senate decided to grab bag the bill in order to make it bipartisan. The crew size safety provision was one of the many casualties of this process. The legislation that would put safety of communities and workers ahead of corporate profits was seen as too controversial to gain the necessary 60 votes needed to pass the bill into law.
Unions and activists are now forced back into the fight to preserve the safety two person crews provide. The FRA has given some hope as they plan to create a crew size rule for railroad operations. Although this fact is celebrated by rail communities, they know it does not equal the lasting comfort of a two person crew law.