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Norfolk Southern CEO refuses commitment to give all employees 7 days paid sick leave

At a Senate hearing on Thursday about the Feb. 3 train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, Sen. Bernie Sanders repeatedly asked Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw if he would commit to giving all employees seven days of paid sick leave. Shaw refused to make that commitment.

Video transcript

BERNIE SANDERS: When you talk about your employees, the entire country I think was shocked to learn a number of months ago that your employees, rail workers, who work in dangerous-- a dangerous job in all kinds of weather, had zero paid sick days. Now, I know that is beginning to change, but I would ask you, given the fact that Norfolk Southern provided $10 billion in stock buybacks recently, can you tell the American people and your employees right now that in order to improve morale in your workforce that you will guarantee at least seven paid sick days to the 15,000 workers you employ?

I do know you've made some progress. You increased paid sick days for some of your workers. Will you do what most Americans think is pretty obvious, that, when you get sick, you get guaranteed paid sick days? Will you make that commitment right now to your entire workforce?

ALAN SHAW: Senator, with our latest agreement with our employees, which included a historic 24% wage increase and access to premium health care benefits, we immediately pivoted to talking to each of our local--

BERNIE SANDERS: I do want-- I've been deeply involved. I introduced the amendment on the floor. I know the issue.

But what I'm asking you right now, you provided paid sick days to some of your employees. I got it. Thank you. Will you now do what most Amer-- what we get here in Congress? Our employees get sick, they get paid sick days. Will you make that commitment right now to guarantee paid sick days to all of your workers? That's not a radical demand. It really is not. Will you make that commitment, sir?

ALAN SHAW: Senator, I share your focus on our employees. I will commit to continuing to discuss with them important quality-of-life issues with our local craft colleagues.

BERNIE SANDERS: All due respect, you sound like a politician here, Mr. Shaw. It's not a-- paid sick days is not a radical concept in the year 2023. I am not hearing you make that commitment to guarantee that to all of your workers. Clearly, we should have that for every worker in America. I'm not hearing that commitment. Will you make that commitment, sir?

ALAN SHAW: Senator, I'm committed to continuing to speak to our employees about quality-of-life issues that are important to them.

BERNIE SANDERS: All right. Well, I'm chairman of the Health, Education, Labor Committee. We look forward to having that discussion.