Despite the efforts of the Biden administration, a railroad strike may be a very real prospect because of rejection of the proposed contract by members of four of the 12 freight railroad labor unions.
Negotiators who represent the union workers of the nation’s Class 1 railroads had agreed to a new multi-year contract prior to the mid-term elections, but the rank and file members of three of the unions voted to reject the negotiated settlement.
Representatives of management and the unions are scheduled to return to the bargaining table on Dec. 4 to try to work out a new agreement with the help of federal mediators. In the meantime, the union leadership has promised that their members will not strike until after that date.
The unions whose members voted down the pact are the SMART Transportation Division, International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees.
The American Association of Railroads has warned that a rail strike will damage the economy to the tune of $2 billion a day. If a strike occurs, Congress has been urged to mandate a settlement, which is something that it can do under federal law.
Financial terms regarding wages and benefits are not at issue, Instead, rail workers are unhappy over working conditions imposed under a radical cost cutting operations model called Precision Scheduled Railroading that has been adopted by most Class 1 freight railroads over the past five years.
In particular, the workers want major changes made to the companies’ draconian attendance policies that even restrict sick leave and have forced workers miss being home for holidays and family events.