On May 30, 2023, investigative news outlet ProPublica published a call to action for all railroad employees with information concerning the suppression of safety and injury reporting through a culture of intimidation. They plan to issue a comprehensive report on railroad worker safety and are seeking any employee that might have insight on this issue to contact them. They hope to hear from as many people who work in the system as possible. This means railroaders in all positions.
ProPublica is an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. In recent months, the organization has been critical of the railroad industry’s cost-cutting approach called Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR). PSR is a business strategy that employs fewer employees and runs longer trains on tighter schedules, which ultimately puts profits ahead of safety in the freight rail industry.
In addition to prioritizing profits over safety, most major railroads have a long history of targeting individuals who get injured on the job or report a safety concern. Supervisors employ scare tactics such as threatening the job security of anyone who speaks out against unsafe practices or pursues compensation for on-the-job injuries. When workers are afraid to report their concerns, it further perpetuates a system of neglect and a sustained decline in overall employee and public safety. Fortunately, there are federal laws that protect workers from this type of retaliatory behavior.
ProPublica’s mission to expose these practices is a long-overdue endeavor that will serve to empower all railroad workers and encourage a safe work environment. It will also protect the general public against the dangers posed by a system that more and more values profits over safety. We at Doran & Murphy encourage any railroad worker who has experienced or witnessed any safety-suppressing conduct on the railroad the contact ProPublica and share your story.