Justin Franz Montana Free Press
Brady Wassam knew what to expect when he took a job on the railroad. Wassam, 30, of Columbia Falls, came from a family of railroaders who have spent years moving freight over the mountains of northwest Montana.
“It’s a family affair [and] I knew what I was getting into,” he said. “I knew I would get called to work in the middle of the night. I knew I’d have no regular schedule. I knew that because that’s how my family lived.”
Freight trains don’t usually run on a set schedule and they don’t stop moving just because it’s a weekend or holiday. However, on the flip side of that unpredictable lifestyle was the fact that for many years railroads could provide workers with great compensation and benefits without requiring a college degree. The good pay and benefits were the reasons Wassam hired on back in 2014.
But Wassam says working conditions on BNSF Railway, one of the largest railroads in the country, have worsened in the last few years, and the introduction of a new attendance policy earlier this year — one union officials have called “the worst and most egregious attendance policy ever adopted by any