A division of the Teamsters union held what it called an informational picket Oct. 30 against Jacksonville-based CSX Corp., saying the company is planning to “drastically reduce our health insurance benefits.”
The protest was held outside the CSX Moncrief Yard terminal on North McDuff Ave. and brought members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division to the demonstration between 2 and 4 p.m.
Initially, there was a half-dozen demonstrators walking near the entrance to the CSX Moncrief Yard in a heavy industrial area. Most carried placards and passed out fliers to workers in their vehicles leaving and arriving at the facility. The demonstrators were careful not to step on CSX property.
The picketers walked near the entrance to the CSX Moncrief Yard,. Dall said they chose to focus on that site because that’s where workers are located as opposed to CSX headquarters in downtown Jacksonville where executives are housed.
Two Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office officers showed up early, spoke with organizers, then left the area.
None of the initial demonstrators — union officials from BMWE — were from Jacksonville.
Union Internal Organizing Coordinator Carey Dall, from Oakland, Calif., said the movement is in response to a current labor impasse between his organization and what’s known as the big four railway companies — CSX, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific and BNSF Railway.
“This is a movement,” Dall said. “What’s happening right now with a Republican trifecta in Washington, D.C., the railroads feel very confident that the president of the United States will order us to work under much worse conditions than we have right now.
“Hence the fight. There’s a big reaction to those kinds of politics.”
Photo by Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes
Dall said the current informational demonstrations are a lead up to a so-called “day of action” scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 8, when railway union officials hope several labor groups and workers unite for a larger informational demonstration.
When asked for a comment, CSX spokesman Rob Doolittle told the Times-Union on Oct. 30, “CSX values the strong relationship it enjoys with its employees, including those who are represented by the BMWE. The issues discussed in the information outreach in Jacksonville today are subject to national negotiation among all railroads and the national organizations who represent many railroad workers.”
The demonstration was largely designed to provide information on the ongoing labor dispute. Union leaders say word of the CSX plans come when the company is experiencing record-high profits and stock value that has hit a six-year high.
“We stand for health care and not wealth care and we intend to stand and voice our opposition to CSX’s greed,” union officials said in a prepared statement before Monday’s demonstration.
The union held similar demonstrations this month, one in Kansas City, Kan., and another at a Tropicana plant in Bradenton where CSX trains transport orange juice.
The labor organization challenge to CSX comes during a time of upheaval for the company. Just last week CSX announced a major shuffle in its executive positions.
James Foote joined the company as chief operations officer, taking the responsibilities of two executives. Foote spent more than a decade working with Hunter Harrison, CSX president and CEO, at Canadian National Railway. Harrison, who took over the top slot of CSX this year and who turns 73 next month, has a four-year contract to run the railroad.
Cindy Sanborn, executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Fredrik Eliasson, executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer, will resign Nov. 15 “to pursue other interests” the company’s statement said.
Since Harrison took over, some rail yards have been closed, thousands of rail cars removed from service and close to 4,000 people, including contractors, dropped from the payrolls.