ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — Between May and November 2019, more than 200 workers at Norfolk Southern in Altoona were laid off, and today the company announced they are moving 85 positions here from the Roanoke, Virginia location, which is being shut down.
Locals in Altoona say they’re not sure how many laid off workers in Altoona will be rehired.
Annette Nagle’s grandfather worked for Norfolk Southern when he came back from World War II. Nagle has known many friends her whole life who have worked for the railway company and who’ve been let go. She said the railroad history is a big part of what makes Altoona a blue collar town.
“It’s a very deep part of who we are,” Nagle said. “Hard workers, even if you don’t work in that field, it’s like, ‘hey, show up and do your work, no excuses.'”
Nagle has friends who were laid off by Norfolk Southern that are still upset with how they were treated.
“Complaints about how management is taking care of workers who have been faithfully with Norfolk Southern for the past 20 or 30 years,” Nagle said.
Tuesday, Norfolk Southern announced they’re closing their Roanoke Distribution Center in Virginia. That locomotive shop work will be moved to Altoona. 85 mechanical employees will have the opportunity to transfer to Altoona. They said this decision comes after a decline in demand for coal.
The Altoona Blair County Development Corporation (ABCD) says Altoona is ready for more railroad work.
“We are always available to make sure that our operation here is competitive as it can possibly from workforce training and other types of infrastructure improvements that can be done to ensure it remains competitive,” ABCD President, Steve McKnight said.
Nagle says former local Norfolk Southern workers may be reluctant to go back.
“They’re gonna have to see that this is actually a long-term consistent effort of ‘this is going to be something good for the area and good for the people that are living here,'” Nagle said.
Norfolk Southern plans for their mechanics at the Roanoke locamotive shop to work until May 18.