Big Blue-Collar Bonuses

Some companies looking to fill hourly positions are using big bonuses to lure workers to less-crowded markets.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 3 min read
signing bonuses as incentives

A $25,000 signing bonus for mechanics, electricians and other hourly workers?

That’s apparently what one U.S. railroad company is offering in an attempt to ease its hiring troubles in this era of low unemployment (a 17-year-low of 4.1 percent).


BNSF Railway, a nationwide freight railroad company with tracks in 28 states, aims to hire 3,500 workers this year, according to the Washington Post.

“We want to meet our customers’ needs, and we’re going to do what we need to do to hire for our company,” said Amy Casas, the railroad’s director of corporate communications.

Other blue-collar industries, such as construction and security, are also giving extra cash to new hires, but there are often strings attached whenever a bonus is awarded. Indeed, the BNSF signing bonus will be paid out in installments over three years, Casas told the Post, and vary depending on an applicant’s skills. (The incentives start at $15,000, and the company declined to share how many employees have received them.)

Gary Painter, a public policy and economics professor at the University of Southern California, told the Post he expects to see more of these perks, which are more often associated with office roles:

“A shortage is only a shortage until you pay enough money to relieve that shortage.”

The trend could pull more workers from major cities to smaller job markets, where wages have historically been lower and housing is cheaper. Think: Nebraska, Indiana, Iowa — states with larger blue-collar communities.