Posts Tagged ‘COVID-19 vaccine’

Amtrak January Service Cuts Likely Averted

December 15, 2021

Amtrak service cuts in January have been averted. Amtrak CEO William Flynn advised employees on Tuesday that the company will refrain from enforcing a company decree that workers who were not fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus by early January would be terminated.

Consequently, he said in a memo to Amtrak workers, the passenger carrier does not anticipate reducing its level of service next month.

Flynn said the company will allow unvaccinated workers to remain on the job if they are able to submit a negative COVID-19 test weekly or more frequently if needed.

Amtrak has been warning for weeks that service frequency reductions were possible unless it achieved 100 percent compliance with a vaccination rule it announced last summer.

Last week Amtrak President Stephen Gardner said in a congressional hearing that service reductions were likely on long-distance trains because some crew bases serving those trains had a relatively high rate of noncompliance with the vaccination mandate.

However, the passenger carrier is now pointing to court action staying enforcement of an executive order issued by President Joseph Biden ordering federal contractors to require that their employees be fully vaccinated.

In the wake of those court orders, the three Class 1 railroads that had ordered their workers to be vaccinated – Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and BNSF – have rescinded enforcement of those rules, at least temporarily.

But Amtrak had said it planned to go ahead and enforce its vaccination requirement, noting that the carrier had announced its rule before the executive order had been issued by the Biden administration.

Amtrak’s original rule had allowed testing as an alternative to vaccination. The rule also permitted certain exemptions to the vaccination requirement.

Workers who have been granted an exemption will be able to continue working, Flynn said in his memo.

This is a change from a previous proviso that those who were exempted would be placed on unpaid leave.

The Flynn memo said workers who failed to submit to COVID-19 testing  will be initially placed on a leave of absence and could face termination.

Thus far nearly 96 percent of Amtrak’s workforce has reached compliance with the vaccination rule or received an accommodation while 97.3 percent has received at least one immunization. That leaves fewer than 500 workers in noncompliance. Flynn’s memo has been posted on the website of Railway Age and can be read by clicking on the following link. https://www.railwayage.com/passenger/intercity/amtrak-updated-employee-vaccine-policy-allows-testing-eliminates-service-impact/

Class 1s Pause Vaccine Rules, Amtrak Does Not

December 10, 2021

Three Class 1 railroads will delay implementation of COVID-19 vaccination rules but Amtrak said it plans to require the vaccinations.

The action follows a ruling by a federal judge in Georgia who issued a nationwide stay of an executive order from the Biden administration that federal contractors require their workers to be vaccinated by early January.

Judge R. Stan Baker issued the stay in response to a lawsuit filed by seven states.

The judge said the plaintiffs “are likely to succeed in their claim that Biden exceeded authorization from Congress when he issued the requirement in September.”

Baker’s ruling applies nationally because another plaintiff in the suit, the Associated Builders and Contractors, has members who do business nationwide.

The Biden executive order had required “federal contractors and subcontractors to comply with workplace safety guidelines developed by a federal task force.”

Those guidelines require employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18 with limited exceptions being allowed for medical or religious reasons.”

Earlier, Amtrak, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and BNSF cited the executive order in requiring employees to get COVID-19 vaccinations.

Unions representing workers at all of those carriers have sued in an effort to get the rules overturned. The unions have said they are not opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations but want the carriers to engage in collective bargaining over any rule requiring vaccinations.

Another federal judge in Kentucky had issued a similar stay of the Biden executive order but it only was effective in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

In statements following this week’s court actions, NS, UP and BNSF said they have halted enforcing their vaccine rules but Amtrak said it has not.

NS said in its statement that it has encouraged its workers from the start of the pandemic to follow the guidance of public health experts.

The statement said NS is pausing enforcement of its vaccine rule, which means it will not subject unvaccinated workers to disciplinary action.

The Atlanta-based carrier said it is still still encouraging employees to get vaccinated and will observe how the legal challenges play out.

In a memo sent to its workers on Dec. 9, Amtrak said 95 percent of its employees are fully vaccinated. That percentage increases to 97 percent when taking into account workers who have received the first of two immunizations.

However, it said that regardless of the court action, it will continue to require workers to be vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.

The memo noted that Amtrak announced its vaccination rule on Aug. 11, which was before the Biden executive order was issued.

In the meantime, Amtrak said it is sending “counseling letters” to employees who have failed to present proof of vaccination to advise them they are in noncompliance with company policy.

Those failing to provide proof of vaccination by Jan. 4 will be consider insubordinate and termination of their employment will be imposed.

Amtrak has said it expects to fall short of 100 percent compliance with the vaccination rule by Jan. 4 and expects to reduce service levels accordingly.

In testimony to Congress on Thursday, Amtrak President Stephen Gardner said long-distance trains will be subject to operating on less than daily schedules through March.

The passenger carrier has not said which trains would be affected but plans to do that next week.

The Associated Press has reported that all three of the Biden administration executive orders mandating workers receive COVID-19 vaccinations have been stayed by federal courts.

Federal Judge Enjoins Vaccine Mandate

December 8, 2021

A federal judge in Georgia has enjoined the Biden administration from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine requirement on companies that are federal contractors.

The action of U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker applies nationwide because one of the plaintiffs in the case, the Associated Builders and Contractors, has members throughout the nation.

Some Class 1 railroads, including Norfolk Southern, have cited the contractor mandate in requiring their employees to be vaccinated.

Unions representing workers at those railroads as well as Amtrak and other carriers, have gone to court seeking to block the vaccine rules.

The unions contend vaccine rules are subject to collective bargaining and can’t be imposed unilaterally by the carriers.

Amtrak Service Cuts Eyed for January

November 30, 2021

Amtrak now expects to announce this month if it will need to impose service reductions in the wake of crew shortages that may occur if not enough employees are vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Trains magazine reported Monday on its website that employees received a letter stating that they are expected to have received their first vaccination shot by Dec. 8 and to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4.

Amtrak has said employees who failed to meet the Jan. 4 deadline will be terminated. Those who miss the Dec. 8 deadline will be allowed to remain in service until early January before being let go if they remain unvaccinated.

Unions representing Amtrak workers have sued the passenger railroad over the issue.

Any service reductions will be detailed in mid December and become effective in January.

Amtrak has indicated service cuts may be needed on routes that lack enough operating personnel to move the trains.

As of Nov. 22, 88.2 percent of Amtrak workers have received at least one shot.

The schedule expected to be released this month will be based on vaccination status of operating personnel at that time.

The article can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/amtrak-limits-track-friday-sale-service-reductions-possible-in-january-as-unions-file-suit/

Court Consolidates Vaccine Rule Lawsuits

November 24, 2021

A federal court in Illinois has consolidated lawsuits involving Class 1 railroads and their unions over COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

The action was taken by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois and involves Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, BNSF, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and two other unions.

The Class 1 railroads have cited a federal executive order in requiring their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

The unions argue that the vaccine edict by the carriers violates the collective bargaining process.

In a related development, unions representing Amtrak workers have filed suit over the passenger’s carrier’s vaccination requirement.

BLET and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) said they generally support vaccination but want Amtrak to engage in collective bargaining over the issue.

The unions claim Amtrak is negotiating directly with employees rather than talking with their unions.

The lawsuit against Amtrak raised many of the same issues as those in the litigation involving NS and UP.

Amtrak is requiring its workers to submit proof of vaccination before Dec. 8. Those workers who have received just dose of the vaccine have until Jan. 4, 2022, to show proof of being full vaccinated.

The carrier has threatened to fire workers who failed to comply with the rules.

Vaccine Mandate Has Foote Worried

November 12, 2021

In a speech on Thursday to the Bernstein 2021 Global Industrial Conference, CSX CEO James Foote expressed concern about how a federal mandate requiring workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will affect operations.

However, as reported by Trains magazine, Foote said the Class 1 carrier plans to comply with a Jan. 4 deadline to require vaccinations although a company spokeswoman said no decision has been made on whether to require unionized workers to receive the vaccine.

CSX is offering financial incentives for workers to receive vaccinations.

Foote said requiring workers to be vaccinated could adversely affect CSX’s efforts to hire and retain operating personnel.

Already, Foote said, crew shortages have restricted how much freight CSX can handle as well as hindered its efforts to provide reliable service.

Trade Group Says Truck Drivers Not Affected by Mandate

November 9, 2021

A trade association representing the trucking industry contends that a Biden administration executive order mandating workers to get COVID-19 vaccinations does not apply to truck drivers.

The American Trucking Association said the Occupational and Safety and Health Administration  has issued an exemption for workers whose jobs involve remotre work, having minimal contact with others in indoor settings and who work exclusively outdoors.

ATA officials said these exemptions would apply to truck drivers.

“We see (this) as an enormous victory for our association and industry,” an ATA officials said in a statement. “Given the nationwide shortage of truck drivers, it is vital that our industry has the relief it needs to keep critical good moving.”

2 Unions Sue NS Over Vaccination Rule

November 2, 2021

Two railroad labor unions have sued Norfolk Southern in an effort to halt the Class 1 carrier from imposing a rule requiring workers to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.

The SMART Transportation Division along with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers filed the suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Chicago Division.

The unions acted after NS filed its own lawsuit seeking to stop unions from suing it over the vaccine rule.

NS has said in public statements that it imposed the vaccination rule due to an executive order issued by President Joseph Biden requiring federal contractors to mandate vaccinations for their employees by Dec. 8.

In their lawsuit, the unions contend that a mandatory vaccine requirement must be negotiated under the Railway Labor Act.

Amtrak Extends Worker Vaccination Deadline

October 29, 2021

In a message to its employees, Amtrak has extended the deadline for it workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccination to Dec. 8.

The message also warned that the passenger carrier is prepared to reduce service if enough workers leave the company rather than comply with the vaccination rule.

The content of the message, which was sent by CEO William Flynn, was reported on the website of Trains magazine.

Amtrak set a deadline of Nov. 10, but the Dec. 8 date is consistent with a federal mandate issued by President Joseph Biden that federal contractors require their workers to be vaccinated by Dec. 8.

Any service reductions would be temporary and take effect in December. To date 80 percent of Amtrak employees have received at least one shot of the vaccine.

Employees who have not received as least one shot by Dec. 8 may seek an exemption based on religious accommodations, but that only guarantees unpaid time off.

More information about Flynn’s message is available at: https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/amtrak-extends-vaccination-deadline-prepares-for-service-reductions/

NS, Unions Tussle in Court Over Vaccine Requirement

October 26, 2021

In the wake of imposing a requirement that all of its employees get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, Norfolk Southern is suing its labor unions, seeking to overturn their lawsuit contesting the rule.

The Class 1 carrier filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Chicago seeking to block the lawsuit filed by the unions seeking to force NS to engage in collective bargaining over the issue.

NS in its lawsuit contends that the objections of the unions to the vaccine rule should be the subject of arbitration and not litigation.

In imposing the vaccine rule, NS cited an executive order issued by President Joseph Biden requiring federal contractors to require their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In its lawsuit, NS asserts a right under its contracts with the unions to require vaccination in order to comply with the executive order.

The legal action being taken by the unions and NS is similar to lawsuits that followed an announcement by Union Pacific that it would require its workers to be vaccinated.

Amtrak has also announced a vaccination requirement for its employees and other Class I railroads are expected to follow suit.