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Montana labor leader concerned train derailment could lead to job losses

Train cleanup
Posted at 6:50 PM, Jun 27, 2023

Four days after a train derailment in Stillwater County,crews are making progress on the cleanup, but officials have released no information on when the rail line will be running again.

Rail traffic has been rerouted in other places, including routes from Laurel to Shelby and Glendive to Snowden, as Montana Rail Link scrambled to continue to transport goods to customers.

Jason Small, the newly installed executive director of the Montana AFL-CIO, the state's largest labor federation, said he's worried the derailment could cut work at the railroad in the short term. According to Montana Rail Link, before Saturday's disaster, 16 to 17 trains would use the tracks per day.

“An incident like this obviously going to cause havoc for quite some time. It's not an overnight fix by any means to reinstall a bridge, or repair a bridge and reinstall a rail line,” said Small, who is not affiliated with the Montana Rail Link or a union connected to the railroad. “I think one of the side effects you're going to see from this is obviously the downstream side effect, the companies are going to be losing revenue, it's going to be harder to move product around. At the end of the day, you’re going to see it affect the workers.”

Montana Rail Link officials have not furloughed workers. On Tuesday, a railroad spokesperson told MTN News that the MRL is "currently assessing crew needs."

The railroad is also uncertain how long the cleanup will take.

“There’s no estimate at this time. We’re still kind of in the early stages of cleanup so it’s difficult to know how long it's going to take,” Montana Rail Link President Joe Racicot said during a Zoom press conference Monday evening.