Rail Union Rejects Biden Offer, Threatens Holiday Strike

Rail Union Rejects Biden Offer: On the last day before the holidays, workers at the center of the supply chain are threatening to go on strike again. Four freight rail unions, which represent close to 60,000 rail workers, voted against the five-year contract deal that the Biden administration worked out in September.

Rail Union Turns Down Biden’s Offer, Threatens to Strike Over the Holidays

In a tight vote, conductors’ union members rejected a collective bargaining deal negotiated by the Joe Biden administration, bringing us one step closer to a strike that threatened to paralyze the nation’s freight train system just two months ago.

While the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (representing rail engineers) voted to accept the five-year agreement early Monday morning, SMART Transportation Division (representing around 28,000 conductors) voted against it. After three smaller rail unions rejected the White House-brokered agreement with train corporations in September, the two main rail unions have now divided over the deal. Now, eight of the 12 freight train unions have given their blessing to the deal.

The transport of numerous items, especially grain, and essential supplies may be halted if there were a rail strike or lockout in the coming weeks. “According to SMART-TD president Jeremy Ferguson, “it’s now back to the negotiation table for our operational craft members,” with the hope that problems may be handled without a strike. The railways are now responsible for moving this situation forward. What they do next will be interesting to observe.”

As of now, until December 8th, the agreement to maintain the status quo remains in effect. If a deal is not reached by December 9th, SMART-TD has threatened a strike, while rail firms have the option of locking out employees. If parties are unable to negotiate a contract, Congress can step in and do it on their behalf.

Passenger rail, notably Amtrak, which relies heavily on tracks owned by freight railways, might be impacted by a shutdown.

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Rail Union Rejects Biden Offer
“According to Ian Jefferies, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, which represents the nation’s major freight businesses, Congress should be prepared to act and avert a terrible $2 billion a day impact to our economy if the remaining unions do not accept a deal. Union Pacific, CSX, Norfolk Southern, BNSF, Canadian National, and Kansas City Southern are all part of this group.

Jefferies stated that the railroads are “ready” to negotiate with the unions, but that “the window continues to shorten as deadlines rapidly approach.” An official from the White House stated that the president still believes a rail shutdown is “unacceptable” because of the damage it would do to the economy, families, farmers, companies, and communities all throughout the country.

“The official emphasized that the best course of action is for the parties to work out a solution to the problem on their own. Since the Obama administration brokered a tentative agreement in September to end the three-year rail union and company standoff, President Joe Biden has stayed out of the fight.

The proposed contract provides for a 24% raise over five years, as well as $5,000 in incentives, paid time off that can be taken voluntarily, an extra paid day off, guaranteed vacation time and medical leave, and no changes to existing health insurance. The pact needs the backing of the union members to become official, despite the fact that it has the backing of the union officials.

On Monday, a majority (51%) of conductors in the union narrowly rejected a contract agreement. The accord was approved by a vote of 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, which represents around 57,000 workers.

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