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Dear Casper,

I am a railroad signal worker for the BNSF Railway and I am a proud union member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen. I am one of the over 6,000 men and women who build, maintain and inspect the major Class I freight railroads’ signal systems that ensure the safe movement of trains and protect the public at highway-rail grade crossings. The work of our craft is critical to the United States’ supply chain.

We are currently involved in negotiations with BNSF Railway. As a rail worker, I am covered under a National Vacation Agreement put into effect in 1941. Under this agreement, we get one week of vacation after one year, two weeks after two years, three weeks after eight years, four weeks after 18 years, and five weeks after 25 years.

As most readers are aware, we do not have any paid sick days; we are required to use one of the few vacation days we have, which are meant for leisure, to address health, family or personal issues that inevitably arise in our lives. We have been making a reasonable request for the BNSF Railway to recognize our essential work and provide a small amount of paid sick leave for us to take care of ourselves or our families during times of sickness or distress.

It has been four decades without an improvement, and the railroads need to come into the 21st century.

Keith Hopkins
Signalman, BNSF Railway