Freight Railroad Worker Stories: Deven Mantz of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees

Freight Railroad Worker Stories: Deven Mantz of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees

Deven Mantz

At a recent virtual U.S. Freight Railroad Worker Town Hall, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, 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 Deven Mantz of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWE), an affiliate of the Teamsters. He works as a surfacing crew foreman for BNSF Railway in Minot, North Dakota. 

Mantz said: “I started on the railroad in 2011 when I was 20 years old. Now I run a district surfacing crew that uses machines to pick the track up and tamp underneath the ties. The crew also lines the track so trains can run smoothly and safely (and also so they run faster).

“I work anywhere from 40 to 80 hours a week. It just depends on what needs to be done and if there are any emergency situations. I was hired when things were really busy and then a lot of people retired, so I do have pretty good seniority in the area I work.

“My biggest issue is the lack of workers. It’s getting to the point where it’s unsafe. We cannot keep up with the amount of work we have. My area specifically has had issues with finding workers for a long time now. I live and work in an area with a lot of good job opportunities in the oil field. They pay more and have better benefits. On the railroad, you are away from home a lot and get paid less. So it’s a less attractive job for sure.

“I would hope that the railroad would recognize this reality and do something to hire and retain employees. I just want to have a good contract so we can retain employees. So many people are quitting, and the ones that stick around are demoralized.”

Kenneth Quinnell
Mon, 08/29/2022 – 13:02

Updated: August 30, 2022 — 1:26 am