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BNSF Railway Co. has joined other Class Is that have filed lawsuits against rail unions that are fighting implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, a company spokeswoman confirmed yesterday.
BNSF's stance had been that an employee's decision to get the vaccine was personal. But, the railroad implemented a vaccine mandate after the Biden administration required federal contractors to implement a vaccine policy. BNSF is a federal contractor.
"While we maintain that the decision to be vaccinated for COVID-19 is a personal one — and have encouraged employees to make the decision that is best for them and their families — the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate now obligates BNSF’s employees to be vaccinated and we all must work toward that end," spokeswoman Amy Casas said in an email. "That said, the company has processes in place for reasonable accommodations for employees exempting them from the vaccination requirement."
Casas confirmed that BNSF on Sunday joined other Class Is that are suing certain rail unions that are fighting the mandate.
"It was apparent that there is a Rail Labor Act (RLA) dispute requiring federal court resolution," she said. "BNSF thinks it's logical for all those RLA issues to be resolved in a single, coordinated litigation."
Both Union Pacific Railroad and Norfolk Southern Railway — which are federal contractors — are involved in legal battles with rail labor unions over the vaccine requirement.
CSX and Kansas City Southern have said they are encouraging their employees to get vaccinated, but have not yet required them to do so.