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The BLET General Chairmen who represent members at Norfolk Southern (NS) have taken the side of current railroad leadership as hedge fund Ancora Holdings attempts to take over the company and double-down on Precision Scheduled Railroading.

Earlier this month, Cleveland-based Ancora Holdings disclosed that it had taken a $1 billion stake in NS and planned to stage a proxy battle to replace the railroad’s board and its chief executive, Alan Shaw. Since the initial announcement, the group has nominated a majority slate of directors to the railroad’s board, including former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and proposed that the company should be run by former United Parcel Service executive Jim Barber along with Jamie Boychuk, who was formerly in an executive role at CSX.

“From our vantage point and from what we’ve learned from our union brothers and sisters at CSX, Boychuk was reckless and ran CSX operations into the ground before he was run out by CSX’s management team,” said BLET General Chairman Scott R. Bunten (NS-Eastern Lines GCA). “Ancora wants to turn back the clock and return to the failed Precision Scheduled Railroading business model with Boychuk’s help that the other Class I railroads are now abandoning.”

Simply put, Precision Scheduled Railroading, more commonly known as PSR, requires railroads to do more with less which equates to longer trains, deferred maintenance of track and equipment, shorter inspections of rolling stock and a reduction in staffing numbers leading to increased terminal dwell times and delays creating poor customer service.

“Ancora has been pointing to the East Palestine derailment as a failure by Alan Shaw and his team, but we believe that the PSR model is directly linked to the East Palestine failure. Shaw was only on the job for a few months prior to the disaster. Since the derailment last year, NS’ CEO has risen to the occasion and, through his leadership, NS has become a safer, more efficient and customer focused company again,” said General Chairman Jerry G. Sturdivant (NS-Southern Lines GCA).

Among the reforms instituted on Shaw’s watch, Norfolk Southern became the only Class I railroad to launch a C3RS Close Call Reporting system, similar to what the commercial airline industry uses to reduce accidents and to take corrective measures. “Having a CEO like Barber with zero railroad experience and a Chief Operating Officer such as Boychuk wedded to the worst aspects of PSR would likely lead to more, not fewer costly train wrecks,” said Sturdivant.

“It’s disappointing to see former Ohio Governor Kasich involved with this effort to make a quick buck at the expense of rail safety,” said BLET National Vice President Rick Gibbons. “His involvement with an effort to reinstitute PSR at Norfolk Southern and push back against safety efforts is shameful.”

On Monday, February 26, NS released its proxy statement including two new board candidates. BLET will support the slate proposed by the company and oppose the slate being put forward by Ancora.

“I am a shareholder and I also vote hundreds of thousands of shares of NS stock for BLET as a fiduciary of the BLET NS 401(k) Plan. I can assure you I will be voting all shares in favor of Alan Shaw and his team. The leaders of our union and our members see the potential for increased revenue for Norfolk Southern with him at the helm. In contrast, Ancora would be bad for investors. It’s easy to imagine a train wreck under their proposed plans, both literally and figuratively speaking,” said BLET General Chairman Dewayne L. Dehart (NS-Northern Lines), who has been with Norfolk Southern for 28 years.