Freight Railroad Worker Stories: Reece Murtagh of IAM

Freight Railroad Worker Stories: Reece Murtagh of IAM

Reece Murtagh

At a recent virtual U.S. Freight Railroad Worker Town Hall, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, (TTD) 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 is about Reece Murtagh, a roadway mechanic who works for CSX. He’s a member of the Machinists (IAM) and lives in Richmond, Virginia. Roadway mechanics repair and rebuild heavy equipment used to maintain and rebuild the tracks.  

Murtagh has a wife and two daughters, ages 5 and 9, and currently serves as a representative of his peers at IAM Local 696. Additionally, he serves his community on the executive board of the Parent-Teacher Association at his daughters’ elementary school, where he recently initiated a community garden project in which he built several raised-bed vegetable gardens for schoolwide use.

From 2018 to 2021, Murtagh worked as a system production traveling mechanic, traveling throughout the entire CSX rail network in all 26 states east of the Mississippi River. Murtagh said:

System production traveling mechanics are gone all week. We’re only home on the weekends. And depending on how far you have to travel, that might mean you’re only home one day a week. You travel on your personal time, and you do not get paid an hourly rate. Instead, there’s a travel allowance that caps out at $300 for each trip. So if you have a long drive, say 13 or 14 hours, that means you’re paid almost a minimum wage to travel on your personal time.

The $300 travel allowance has not changed since 1992. While the travel allowance is not on the table right now in our current negotiations for a new national contract, CSX could come to the table at any time and fix this unethical policy. 

The conditions we work in also affect us a great deal. We work 14- to 16-hour days. We’re out in all weather conditions. We have tool bags on our backs while we’re walking up and down the tracks. We’re fixing stuff all day long. It’s hard on our bodies, and we’re just never home. It’s a hard life for a bunch of hard workers.

Kenneth Quinnell
Mon, 08/15/2022 – 10:00

Updated: August 19, 2022 — 11:44 pm