Wyden questions railroad layoffs

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U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden

U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley  demanded Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) answer questions about its proposed layoffs of nearly 200 people in Hermiston and the damage those job cuts would do to worker safety, transportation and the regional economy.

“These UPRR decisions to reduce jobs at Hinkle Yard, and close the Hinkle Supply Warehouse and Mechanical Locomotive Shop in Hermiston, Oregon will devastate this rural community by hamstringing the economic opportunities and stability of the entire region,” Wyden and Merkley wrote Union Pacific president and CEO Lance Fritz. “And they could create potential safety risks for the remaining employees.”

The senators wrote that earlier UPRR layoffs have already hurt rural agricultural producers and other shippers who rely heavily on the UPRR to move goods to market. And the Oregon lawmakers noted those local businesses report difficulties reaching Union Pacific staff to resolve problems, or even reach a customer service representative.

Other troubling impacts from these latest announced UPRR layoffs, they wrote, include driving more freight transportation to already congested Oregon freeways, often during dangerous winter weather conditions.

“We are deeply concerned about rural Oregon economies and your company’s actions as it appears to risk destabilizing already fragile communities,” Wyden and Merkley wrote. “While the company has substantial resources to reinvest and modify operations over time, many of these workers and their families are not so fortunate.”

The letter with the questions asked by Wyden and Merkley is here.