Furloughed railroad workers meet to discuss frustrations, next steps

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ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — Less than a week ago, roughly 100 workers at Norfolk Southern’s Juniata Shop were told they’d be without a job. Now, local union representatives and people from the community are coming together to help those affected by the lay offs.

About 50 furloughed workers gathered at the Blair-Bedford Central Union Council to talk about their frustrations with the recent cuts and what steps they have to take now that they’re without a job.

In the past six months, Norfolk Southern has laid off about 150 workers from the Juniata Locomotive Shop.

President and Chairman of the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers, Dan Dorsch, said it’s not only disheartening for him, but for the workers, to watch the furloughs continue.

“It’s very frustrating, being a union leader, to see a company make millions and millions of dollars and still lay off. It’s very, very hard to see that…People that have 8 or 9 years, that think they’re in a very stable position and then lose their job and to a company that making record profits,” he said.

Dozens of those workers participated in the meeting on Monday to learn about the changes in their benefits including health insurance and retirement plans. But the main focus was how to move forward, something local employers want to help them do by placing them in jobs utilizing their skill set in new ways.

“They need welders. They need electricians. They need pipe fitters. They need machinists, and these are the type of people that were laid off in this situation, unfortunately,” Gwen Fisher, Site Administrator for Pa Careerlink, said.

And as these workers go through the transition to unemployment, Dorsch wanted them to know the union, and the community, will continue to support them.

“We’re here to help and we’re here to stand behind them and show them that we’re brothers and sister all in working together.”

Dan Dorsch

For those interested, there will be a job fair next month, on October 16. It’ll be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Jaffa Shrine, and more than 80 employers are already signed up to attend.

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