Fourth rail union rejects contract agreement, raising possibility of a strike : NPR

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A Union Pacific freight prepare carries cargo alongside a rail line at sundown in Bosler, Wyoming, on August 13, 2022.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP through Getty Pictures


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Patrick T. Fallon/AFP through Getty Pictures


A Union Pacific freight prepare carries cargo alongside a rail line at sundown in Bosler, Wyoming, on August 13, 2022.

Patrick T. Fallon/AFP through Getty Pictures

It is again to the drafting board for tens of 1000’s of rail staff.

SMART Transportation Division, the biggest freight rail union representing 28,000 conductors and different trainmen, has rejected the tentative settlement brokered by the Biden administration in September.

The vote was extraordinarily slim — 50.87% voted towards the deal.

One other giant rail union — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen — voted to ratify the settlement by 53.5%.

The settlement offers staff a 24% increase over 5 years, an extra private day and caps on well being care prices. It additionally consists of some modifications to the railroads’ strict attendance insurance policies, permitting staff to take care of medical wants with out going through penalties for lacking work.

Again in September, President Biden described it a win for all sides and the U.S. financial system. The railroads known as it essentially the most beneficiant contract in fashionable historical past and famous that upon ratification, staff would see a mean payout of $16,000 in again raises and bonuses.

President Joe Biden shakes palms with U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh on September 15, 2022, after talking in regards to the railway labor settlement brokered by the White Home. The deal has been ratified by 9 of 12 rail unions.

Jim Watson/AFP through Getty Pictures


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Jim Watson/AFP through Getty Pictures


President Joe Biden shakes palms with U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh on September 15, 2022, after talking in regards to the railway labor settlement brokered by the White Home. The deal has been ratified by 9 of 12 rail unions.

Jim Watson/AFP through Getty Pictures

That turned out to not be sufficient for some staff. Pointing to the railroads’ file earnings lately, they are saying they deserve higher.

“SMART-TD members with their votes have spoken, it is now again to the bargaining desk for our working craft members,” stated SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson in a assertion. “This may all be settled via negotiations and with no strike. A settlement could be in the very best pursuits of the employees, the railroads, shippers and the American folks.”

4 of 12 rail unions have voted down the deal

There are actually 4 unions, with a mixed membership of near 60,000 staff, who’ve voted down the settlement.

These unions and the railroads now return to the bargaining desk. If no settlement is reached by December 8, two issues may occur as early as 12:01 a.m. on December 9: The railroads may lock staff out, or staff may go on strike.

If anyone union strikes, the entire unions will honor the picket strains, together with the seven which have ratified the deal. That may carry not simply freight trains, however some Amtrak and commuter rail techniques that function on tracks owned by the freight railroads, to a halt.

Roughly 30% of freight strikes by rail within the U.S. — the whole lot from chlorine to vehicles to corn. The Affiliation of American Railroads estimates {that a} nationwide rail shutdown may price the nation $2 billion a day in misplaced financial output.

Congress has the ability to intervene if staff strike

Ought to there be a strike, Congress would seemingly intervene inside hours. The Railway Labor Act permits Congress to take any variety of measures to get trains operating once more — together with imposing some model of the contract or extending the established order, kicking any resolution to the following Congress.

At a sequence of city corridor conferences during the last month, union leaders kept away from telling engineers and conductors learn how to vote however warned that in the event that they rejected the contract in favor of a strike, the matter could be out of their palms.

“Make your personal choices,” Dennis Pierce, nationwide president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, stated at a city corridor in Independence, Ohio, on November 9. “However the concept [Congress] will allow us to shut down the nation’s financial system for any size of time I do not suppose is probably going.”

Paid sick depart, attendance insurance policies are nonetheless huge sticking factors

The unions acknowledge that the settlement despatched to the rank-and-file to vote on fell wanting what they’d hoped for. Whereas the deal did embrace substantial raises that places staff barely forward of inflation, it didn’t ship any paid sick days, a significant disappointment to staff after carrying the railroads via the pandemic.

The unions have been capable of safe some protections for staff from the strict attendance insurance policies employed by a few the railroads. Beneath the deal, staff can miss work to take care of medical points with out being assessed disciplinary factors, however there are limitations and the day off is unpaid.

Moreover, the settlement stipulates that unions can negotiate for extra common schedules for engineers and conductors who’re primarily on name across the clock. The unions say it is a huge win for staff and would represent a significant quality-of-life enchancment.

In the meantime, two unions that voted down the contract final month — the Brotherhood of Upkeep of Method Workers and the Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen — are nonetheless holding out for paid sick depart. They’ve argued that railroad staff ought to obtain the identical quantity that federal contractors are mandated to supply — 56 hours — however say they will make a take care of lower than that.

Unions are additionally exploring different paths to securing paid sick depart, together with via government order, SMART-TD president Ferguson advised staff at a city corridor earlier this month.

“We’re not executed,” he assured them.

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