February 5, 2024
Dear CPKC Shareholders, Stakeholders and Concerned Citizens,
During its fourth quarter investor call on January 30th, CPKC CEO Keith Creel touted “best in class earnings growth in 2023” including $3.8 billion dollars in revenue during the fourth quarter alone. As the newly-merged corporation’s fortune grows however, its draconian behavior toward employees casts a threatening shadow that you need to know about. Case in point: The railroad giant has exploited its merger as an opportunity to strip sick leave benefits from some of its most safety-critical employees. Specifically, those of its Train Dispatchers from the former SOO Line who are members of the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA).
To understand the significance, first consider that Train Dispatchers serve in the same capacity for the railroad as air traffic controllers do for the flying public. On the CPKC network, they ensure the safe movement of rail traffic across thousands of miles between the Mexican and Canadian boarders. Their critically important work must not only be done expeditiously, but also in compliance with stringent federal regulations and extensive company rules. They are a huge factor in ensuring the safety of railroad workers and all those who live in the communities which the trains pass through.
Currently there are 48 CPKC Train Dispatchers in Kansas City that do not have paid sick days. When CPKC consolidates its operations this summer and relocates an additional 35 of our members to the Kansas City area, they will be forced to forfeit all paid sick leave benefits earned through their many years of service. This is because those Train Dispatchers who formerly worked under the SOO Line Agreement in Minnesota will now be governed by the KCS Agreement, which affords no paid time off for sick leave. While the Corporation could have easily resolved this issue through the consolidation process, it instead used negotiations to present our members with a Hobson ‘s choice: accept an 11 % pay reduction or forfeit all sick leave benefits. Given the challenging cost of living and that their sick leave comprised far less than 11 % of their compensation, they were forced to choose to give up sick leave.
Despite our Organization’s willingness to negotiate a fair resolution, the CPKC will not budge on providing our members the same benefits that nearly all ATDA train dispatchers have throughout the United States (including CPKC’s train dispatchers in Minnesota). Instead of ensuring that these employees can take time off from their safety sensitive positions when ill, they instead punish them by refusing pay. Instead of recognizing that they are a driving force behind its billions in income, it treats these highly-skilled Train Dispatchers as a disposable commodity.
But even worse, the CPKC’s actions are systematically jeopardizing the safety of its employees and the citizens of your communities. By forcing employees to choose between lost wages or working through sickness, CPKC is sending you a clear message: If they can save a few bucks by working a physically compromised employee in a safety-critical position, they’ll absolutely do it and let you live with the consequences. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the type of reasoning Americans have come to expect from the corporation machine. CPKC, like so many similar corporations, is proving to be yet another mega-merger monster which cares about nothing but short-term shareholder satisfaction.
Ironically, this same CPKC has no problem posturing as a champion of women, by spending millions of dollars for the naming rights of Kansas City’s new Women’s Soccer Stadium. Keith Creel, CPKC President and CEO said, “CPKC has been a longtime champion of women’s sports and of investing in our communities. This stadium and this partnership with the Current will build on that legacy as together we write a new chapter here in Kansas City.” We, the ATDA are all for such support of women’s sports and your community. But, CPKC should also become a champion of women’s health and start providing paid sick days for its Union women and men who made such a sponsorship possible.
If CPKC means what it says, then they should behave like a champion and do what is right. It’s time for CPKC to do what each of the other major railroads in the United States have done for thousands of their employees. It’s time for CPKC to end its practice of punishing those who fall ill or who need to care for a sick family member. It’s time for CPKC to allow those filling these vitally important positions to focus on keeping their coworkers and communities safe, rather than losing a paycheck when they are sick. If Creel and the CPKC are serious, then there is a very easy way to prove it: Provide paid sick leave for your hard working, critically important Train Dispatchers.
L. Ed Dowell