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10/26/2022

Threat of nationwide rail strike grows

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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A second railroad union has voted against ratifying the tentative agreement brokered between the railroad managers, unions and the Biden administration.

Fears of a nationwide rail strike are growing following a union vote.

A union representing 6,000 rail workers, said its members have voted against ratifying the tentative contract that was brokered between rail companies, unions and the Biden administration in September.

The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen is the second union to reject the White House-brokered agreement. Earlier this month, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the Teamsters rejected the tentative contract over frustration with compensation and working conditions, with the biggest issue being a lack of paid sick days.

The unions that voted down the agreement have vowed to continue negotiations at least until Nov. 19, when a strike could potentially occur, although the timeline is uncertain.

To date, six unions have ratified the deal brokered by the White House. The two largest rail unions — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division, which make up roughly half of all rail workers — will finish voting in the middle of November.

A potential strike could lead to $2 billion a day in lost economic output, according to the Association of American Railroads. Freight railroads are responsible for carrying 40% of the nation's long-haul freight.

Labor relations at railroads abide by a different labor law than the one that governs workers at most U.S. companies, reported CNN. Railroad unions face limits for when they can strike and can’t take action during cooling-off periods that follow a “no” vote by membership. 

Although the two unions that voted down the agreement are smaller than the two big ones, a strike by any one of the 12 freight rail unions would be honored by the others and cause the nation’s major freight railroads to halt operations, CNN reported.

To read the full CNN report, click here.