Arbitration Dir. Shanahan Testifies to U.S. House Rail Committee Citing BMWED Concerns 03/04/2020

Published: Mar 5 2020 2:03PM

BMWED Director of Arbitration Robert J. Shanahan Jr. went to Capitol Hill yesterday to testify on the state of the nation’s crumbling railroad infrastructure and the rail carriers’ propensity to contract out much-needed track maintenance and construction work away from Brotherhood members.

Invited as an expert witness by chairman, U.S. Rep. Daniel Lipinski (D IL-03), Brother Shanahan’s testimony at the House Subcommittee of Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials’ “Funding a Robust Freight and Passenger Rail Network” hearing highlighted issues our Union has been battling for some time. Citing his experience both as a laborer with Metra Railroad in Chicago and as the director of the Brotherhood’s arbitration office, Brother Shanahan spoke to the urgent need to repair our country’s railroad tracks and bridges and emphasized the importance that BMWED members perform the vital work.

“There is no question that BMWED members are the most qualified and highly-trained to perform this work,” Brother Shanahan told the committee. “My experience in the field at Metra shows the urgent need for greater infrastructure funding for passenger railroads but any infrastructure package needs to have protections to ensure  that the work is performed by Union members who have been properly trained on FRA safety rules.”

In his capacity as Arbitration Director, Brother Shanahan also drew focus to the railroad carriers’ proclivity to use contractors to do BMWED work, something that Congress must stop if it elects to spend $55 billion on a massive nationwide railroad infrastructure improvement project.

“Multiple carriers are now electing to assign non-Union contractors to perform on-track protection,” Brother Shanahan said. “Last month, Amtrak assigned on-track protection work for a major project occurring in Chicago to non-Union contractors. The problem with this decision is that the non-Union contractors are subject to a qualification process that minimally complies with FRA regulations. Looking to achieve a minor cost savings, Amtrak is putting anyone in the immediate vicinity of this project at risk. We should not be putting profitability ahead of safety.”

Brother Shanahan further testified that BMWED are more-qualified and better-equipped to do rail work than any counterparts because of the frequency and intensity of our training. He testified to the stringent training and testing that is included in our jobs and the daily reiteration of safety rules that proceed each day’s work project.
“Nothing shakes my confidence in Amtrak more than hearing that they are dividing the work force by bringing in people who are less qualified to work on rail projects,” U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D MA-08) said. “With all the challenges we have, do you really want to pick that fight by bringing in less-trained workers who do not have the experience and regular, on-going training on working on a rail system?”

Along with Brother Shanahan, other witness invited to share Congressional testimony were:

Mr. Stephen Gardner, Senior Executive Vice President and, Chief Operating and Commercial Officer, Amtrak 
Dr. Sandra Bury, Mayor, Village of Oak Lawn, Illinois 
Mr. Kevin Corbett, President and Chief Operating Officer, NJ TRANSIT Corporation 
Mr. Kevin Artl, President and Chief Operating Officer, American Council of Engineering Companies of Illinois 
Mr. Ian Jefferies, President, Association of American Railroads