If you are a frequent reader of this newsletter, and we hope all members are, then you are familiar with the customary discipline analysis article we publish. The purpose of the biannual article is to identify trends, both positive and negative, and inform all members. This is done with the hope of preventing future occurrences. We customarily breakdown the total number of disciplinary events by infraction category and highlight the severity of the discipline assessed for each. This review helps identify trouble spots and areas where we are improving. This is valuable information, for sure, but this installment will look at that same information through a slightly different lens.
It should be a source of pride that we have only had 35 members subjected to discipline thus far in 2022. When you compare that to previous years, we are seeing roughly half of the discipline occurrences we are accustomed to. We should also be relieved by the fact less than 40% of those occurrences have resulted in serious discipline being assessed (LS or dismissal). We have historically observed severity percentages reflective of two-thirds or more of our accused members receiving serious discipline.
The question to be asked is, to what do we attribute this significant reduction in both volume and magnitude of discipline? Has the railroad become a more docile, caring, and empathetic employer? Or is this reduction due to the mass exodus that has occurred over the last couple of years, resulting in fewer people for the railroad to discipline? While this author would prefer to be an optimist, it is hard not to recognize the truth is quite likely the latter. Realistically, when you consider the fact we have had ≈120 signalmen resign from the BNSF in the last 18 months alone, the truth of the matter seems to come down to the old adage “you can’t fire me. I quit.” Has its recognition of this trend resulted in the railroad issuing reduced discipline for certain infractions as compared to historical handling? While that seems a reasonable inference, it is certainly no reason to let our guard down.
We must continue to be vigilant in following all the Carrier’s rules. The numbers reflected above could be viewed by the eternal optimist as evidence of a gentler railroad. However, the more realistic analysis would suggest we still work for an often-unforgiving employer and, more importantly, the rules at the core of most of these events are critical safety rules. We must remain vigilant and continue to focus on following all rules and life-saving processes.