A strike could occur as early as Dec. 9 now that freight carriers union SMART-TD has rejected the tentative agreement negotiated in mid-September by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and other officials.
The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers union and their 500+ Transportation Division members made the announcement on Nov. 21.
Another union that is making some noise is the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET). BLET’s members have agreed to honor the picket lines and join the strike despite approving their contract
“SMART-TD members with their votes have spoken, it’s now back to the bargaining table for our operating craft members,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said.
“This can all be settled through negotiations and without a strike. A settlement would be in the best interests of the workers, the railroads, shippers and the American people.”
Between the two unions, BLET and SMART-TD represent more than 100,000 unionized workforces for the largest freight railroad in the nation.
“The ball is now in the railroads’ court. Let’s see what they do. They can settle this at the bargaining table,” Ferguson told Transportation Topics. “But the railroad executives who constantly complain about government interference and regularly bad-mouth regulators and Congress now want Congress to do the bargaining for them.”
It has been estimated that the freight railroads carry approximately 30% of the nation’s cargo, including key agricultural commodities.
“Tens of thousands of rail customer locations, from sprawling auto plants to mom-and-pop retailers, depend on railroads to deliver raw materials and finished products,” the Association of American Railroads said in a statement. “If these and other rail shipments were halted, the loss in economic output would likely be at least $2 billion per day.”
If you’ll recall, on July 15, President Joe Biden blocked a freight railroad strike in Omaha, Nebraska. This strike would disrupt the fragile supply chain by delaying the shipment of goods for at least 60 days.
To combat this, President Biden appointed a board of arbitrators, the Presidential Emergency Board, to help the dispute with contract building and negotiation mediation.
The appointed Presidential Emergency Board gave the 12 unions involved a 124-page report outlining their suggested terms.
Early on Sept. 15, it was announced that the six Class I railroads and union workers reached a tentative deal with the management council for the rail carriers.
The tentative deal prevented about 115,000 conductors, engineers, and other employees from staging a walkout.
In a statement by President Biden, he said this deal would guarantee “better pay, improved working conditions and peace of mind around their health care costs.”
Just when we thought the rail unions and railroads had reached a deal that pleased both parties, on October 10, approximately 12,000 union workers voted against the tentative labor agreement.
Hopefully, a conclusion can be reached prior to Dec. 9 otherwise Congress would step in and impose its own terms. As updates come out, be sure to subscribe to your newsletter and check back daily as we post new content every day.
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