ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – If there’s a strike, the impact could be huge in New Mexico. Cities like Belen were built because of the railroad. The railroad is a big part of New Mexico’s growth and history.
The railroad was running before we even officially became a state and the railroads here opened the door for cross-continental trade. It’s a huge part of the supply chain. “New Mexico, was open to the rest of the country in the world by the railroad. That’s how we became a much more important actor on the national and international stage,” says John Taylor.
BNSF Railway is one of the largest freight operations in the state. The union representative says at least 150 trains move through the state each day and he says that’s a conservative estimate. Peak season is next month and during that time there will be 300 or more trains a day. BNSF is one of the companies involved in the dispute. There is also Union Pacific which operates in Southeastern New Mexico. Together they employ thousands of workers.
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If New Mexico workers were to strike, it could have a huge impact on the economy which is already struggling with shipping delays. The “Smart Union” is representing some of those New Mexico railroad workers during this dispute. They say railway companies are trying to produce the same amount of work with fewer employees which in turn is hurting their current workers.
They’re asking for better sick time and paid time off, and a change that wouldn’t require them to be on call 24/7. “If we can’t have a decent quality of life, we don’t get the agreement that we want. I’m afraid that we may lose more employees, they’ll just go somewhere else,” says Donald Gallegos.
Gallegos says his union represents 500 workers. He says because there are fewer workers, it affects how much time off workers can ask for. He says this results in overworked and exhausted employees who then want to quit. Even railways not involved in the dispute have begun to react to the potential strikes.
Amtrak which is not involved has started to cancel trips to avoid possible disruptions. That includes the Southwest Chieftan Route. According to the Association of American Railroads, if rail shipments were to stop, the economic impact nationwide could result in at least a $2B loss per day.