President Joe Biden’s executive order requiring all government contractors to fully vaccinate their employees by November 22 has continued to have negative consequences across Texas and the nation. Hundreds of boats are stuck, awaiting entry to various ports. Pilots refusing to fly has led to thousands of flight cancellations. And now, another critical piece of American transportation infrastructure is being affected—the railroad.
Although the railway does not necessarily count as a federal contractor, they would be required to fully vaccinate their thousands of employees under a forthcoming OSHA rule also requested by President Biden. In response to the heavy-handed move from the federal government, Union Pacific made a “unilateral” decision to require all of their employees to vaccinate.
In a 2020 report, Union Pacific accounted for 6,355 miles of railroads, billions of dollars of economic exchange, and 5,517 employees in Texas alone.
When it comes to protecting critical Texas infrastructure, the Legislature does not have an impressive track record. Earlier this year, millions of Texans were impacted by a winter storm that swept the state, causing mass power outages. The storm killed livestock and disrupted supply chains; this could have been avoided if lawmakers had been proactive. Similarly, the Legislature failed to address vaccine freedom despite Gov. Greg Abbott adding it to the special session, leaving millions of Texans vulnerable to federal and corporate vaccine tyranny.
So far, Abbott’s office has refused to call a fourth special session to address vaccine mandates.
Texas’ No. 1 material received by railcar is coal. Coal is needed to operate power plants when temperatures rise or fall, and to operate massive refining plants in the bayou that employ thousands of Texans. If Union Pacific suffers walkouts like Southwest Airlines suffered last week, significant portions of the Texas economy could be at risk.
The move is receiving heavy opposition from labor unions, however.
Three railway and transportation labor unions have filed suit against Union Pacific in Illinois. They are claiming that UP violated federal law by altering conditions of employment without negotiating with the labor unions.
Two unions joining the lawsuit are the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD).
Dennis Pierce and Jeremy Ferguson, presidents of the aforementioned respective unions, had this to say in a joint statement on Friday:
Instead of negotiating with us as the law requires, the Carrier is directly dealing with its employees by offering a ‘financial incentive’ for compliance with its unilateral mandate. We generally support our members getting the vaccine. However, we have several objections to UP’s unilateral implementation of their policies mandating them and illegally dealing directly with its represented employees. The members of our Unions — including members who already are vaccinated — are irate over UP’s outrageous conduct.