AVON, Ind. – Some local railroad workers claim their jobs could go away as soon as this weekend, but they haven’t heard anything official from management.
If the job cuts happen, they believe the decision could lead to danger on the railroad tracks in our backyards.
“These are a lot of jobs, these are a lot of safety standards being bypassed to secure safe passage of trains,” said Perry Rapier, a long-time railroad worker who now represents some of the workers at the Avon CSX railyard.
Rapier says many of the workers help maintain the tracks and repair and inspect train engines and rail cars.
“If we’re not there, then it needs to be brought to attention, that this is what’s happening going through your backyard,” said Rapier.
CSX spokespeople would not agree to a phone interview and would only repeat verbatim what they sent out in a statement. They maintain there’s no news at all to report concerning the Avon railyard. They only admit, in that statement, that “CSX’s management team is undertaking a comprehensive review of the company’s operations, and making changes across its network to improve efficiency, safety and service to customers.”
They go on to say that if any changes are made, employees and stakeholders will be informed.
A little digging though, shows something has changed at the railyard recently.
Google Maps aerials confirm workers’ descriptions of a full, bustling railyard at one point. A drive through and flight over the railyard shows a completely different situation.
“There’s always cars, there’s always traffic,” said Rapier, who also used to work at the yard. “There’s always something going on.”
Now nearly every track is empty. In the 45 minutes a FOX59 crew was inside today with a local railroader, only one train moved.
“I made a couple of phone calls and everybody was [saying], ‘We haven’t heard anything. We don’t know anything,’” said Rapier.
Rapier says the lack of information from management has led to widespread concern among the workers there.
“I should be told and be allowed to give information to my guys,” said Rapier. “I believe in some sense they do and don’t know. I think there’s some things they’re willing to leak out and let, I guess, panic run amok and other things they’re going to keep close to themselves in an effort to just hit us all by surprise.”
Rapier says many of them are stunned that CSX, which made $1.7 billion last year, would even need to eliminate their positions. They point the fingers at the new CEO, who Rapier believes is motivated by greed.
“A man that’s all of a sudden walking in and taking over a company and being told that he’s going to make a $300 million contract over four years and then turn around and start cutting jobs, cutting safety, shredding the entire standard of which we all grew up as railroaders,” said Rapier.
At the end of the day, Rapier says they just want answers about whether their jobs are truly gone and when, so they don’t have a lapse in being able to provide for their families.
“They should have the gumption to come out here and stand behind what they’re practicing and say, give us a reason,” said Rapier. “Without a reason and to keep us in the dark, that’s bad business.”
Rapier says the union contract states CSX must give workers at least five days' notice before cutting their jobs.
But he claims that wasn’t done earlier this summer when CSX let go nearly 50 workers from the Avon railyard maintenance facility, so they’re bracing themselves for the same thing to happen again.