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Rail workers to rally in Galesburg for fair contract

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Rail workers are planning a labor rally and informational picket in Galesburg to lift the voices of union members fighting for a fair contract.

The rally will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday on the public square.

Local organizer Nick Allen is a safety supervisor for BNSF Railway in Galesburg.

But he said the rally is for all rail workers across the country.

“We’ve been fighting with the Class 1 freight railroads for two and half years or better now for a fair contract,” Allen said.

A similar rally was recently held in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Allen hopes Galesburg’s draws even more people. People from as far away as Washington D.C. are planning to attend, he said.

Allen said it’s about solidarity among union members but also about educating the public on the situation.

The workers are fighting for wage increases and differential pay, better healthcare and benefits, and for safe, two-man crews.

“Right now the railroads are really pushing to only have one man in the locomotive, and that is a huge safety concern, not only for us employees but even for the general public as these trains run right through their backyards,” Allen said.

Sean O’Brien, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, voiced support for the rally on the Teamsters’ Facebook page.

He said he can’t be in Galesburg for the rally but he encouraged all rail workers to speak up.

“You work for employers that do not care about you, the long hours, and the goods and service you provide to this country. It’s time to stand up, it’s time to fight, it’s time to let these carriers now that we deserve the best contract,” O’Brien said.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson covers west central Illinois and southeast Iowa for Tri States Public Radio.