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  • Writer's pictureStephen Fodor

Nationwide Freight Rail Strike Threat Holds Off to After Thanksgiving

(This article is shared from the NCBFAA)

"A freight railroad strike, even for a short duration, would be detrimental to the U.S. economy, costing the nation an estimated $2 billion a day. It would also take exponentially more days to unscramble the U.S. supply chain."

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents the nation’s freight rail carriers in national collective bargaining, and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED) on Nov. 9 agreed that the current cooling off period, which had been set to expire on Nov. 19, will be extended until at least Dec. 4 and is subject to further extension to maintain alignment, if necessary, with other labor organizations. This extension eliminates the threat of a near-term freight rail service disruption.

“The railroads will remain engaged with BMWED throughout the extended cooling off period and will continue to seek an agreement based on the framework recommended by Presidential Emergency Board 250,” NCCC said in a statement.

Three unions have open ratification votes, and the cooling off period extension announced Nov. 9, will allow the members of these unions to complete their voting without disruption from the threat of a strike. The rank-and-file members of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS)—one of a dozen freight rail unions in the National Railway Labor Conference—on Oct. 26 voted to reject the tentative contract agreement reached on Sept. 15 over paid time off for illness.

Meanwhile, on Nov. 5, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), and its approximately 5,000 rail workers, has ratified its recent tentative agreement with the nation’s freight railroads.

The IAM agreement, like the agreements with six other rail unions that have already ratified, implements the recommendations of Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) No. 250, including the largest wage package in nearly five decades, maintains rail employees’ platinum-level health benefits, and adds an additional day of paid time off for IAM-represented workers.

The tentative agreements announced on Sept. 15 followed the Aug. 16 recommendations of Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) No. 250, which include a 24 percent wage increase during the five-year period from 2020 through 2024 — with a 14.1 percent wage increase effective immediately — and five annual $1,000 lump sum payments, according to the National Railway Labor Conference.

An earlier strike by freight rail labor was anticipated on Sept. 16, but the U.S. Labor Department on Sept. 15 helped the rail companies and union negotiators reach a tentative agreement. However, the individual unions, which are represented by the National Railway Labor Conference, most all vote to ratify the agreement. If one union chooses to strike, no matter how small, all unions of the conference are obligated to participate.

To date, of the 12 railroad unions, seven have signed the agreement, two have rejected it, and three have yet to hold a vote to ratify the agreement.

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