Freight Railroad Worker Stories: Nick Greficz of SMART-TD

Nick Greficz

At a recent Virtual U.S. Freight Railroad Worker Town Hall, Transportation Trades Department President Greg Regan introduced a group of workers who explained the challenges they’ve faced in their three-year fight for a new contract with U.S. freight railroad companies:

Since 2015, seven major railroad companies made $146 billion in net profits off the backs of these workers. That’s the most money they’ve ever made in the history of railroading—even more than the Gilded Era railroad robber barons. During this same time period, the companies eliminated 45,000 jobs from the industry. Instead of recognizing the value of these workers, the companies have enacted massive job cuts and offered the remaining workers a net pay cut and worse health care benefits than they have now. This is unacceptable.

In the coming days, the AFL-CIO will share the stories of those workers. Check back here every day for more.

Today’s story comes from Nick Greficz, a member of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Transportation Division (TD) in Detroit.

In 2005, Greficz was hired as a conductor for Norfolk Southern. He is currently a SMART TD organizer and also serves as the secretary for SMART TD’s General Committee of Adjustment 687.

Greficz said, “All the burden is being put on the shoulders of the employees, but they’re getting none of the benefits. Instead, they’re getting stagnant wages [and] dealing with unnecessary safety exposures and blatant disregard for the collective bargaining agreements on property. Instead of being treated as valuable assets, they’re being treated as numbers. And workers are tired of it. People are resigning en masse. There’s no consideration given to the employees for their personal lives.

“You [can] have 25 years on the railroad, and a year in advance you can say, ‘I request to have Thanksgiving off so I can be with my family’ or ‘I request Halloween off so I can take my kids trick-or-treating,’ and those requests are denied,” Greficz added. “Just because you’ve accrued the time off for working there for five, 10, 15 or 20 years does not mean that you actually get to use it. The manpower shortage trumps your years of loyal service to the railroad. It’s a shame, especially since the manpower shortages across all the freight railroads are self-imposed.

“What was once a highly regarded craft and a career has been dwindled down to a job that they can’t even hire people for when the minimum requirement is a high school diploma or GED,” he continued. “It’s actually deplorable what’s happened to this industry. You used to go to a hiring session, and there would be 400 people standing in a room for four job openings. Now, the railroads can’t get four people to show up when they want to hire for 400 jobs. That’s a problem.”