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Supply Chain News: Will Rail Carriers avert a Strike in Less than Two Weeks?


Agreements being Reached with some of 12 Unions, but will Rank and File Follow?

Sept. 7, 2022

The stakes are high in the on-going negotiations between a number of unions and US rail carriers, with potential new agreements that may not be accepted by the rank and file.

Surpply Chain Digest Says...


The vast majority of workers surveyed said they would reject agreements based on the PEB recommendation.

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Rail workers have been laboring without a contract for about a year.

In August, the Biden administration created a Presidential Emergency Board in an effort to end the standoff between railroads and unions. The board recommended a five-year deal that would cap healthcare premiums, provide cash bonuses and hike rail worker wages by 24%.

More specifically, the recommended 24% wage increase will be for the period from 2020 through 2024 — with a 14.1% wage increase effective immediately — and five annual $1,000 lump sum payments. A portion of the wage increases and lump sum payments are retroactive and will be paid out soon upon ratification of the agreements by the unions’ membership.

Then late last week, the National Carriers' Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents rail carriers in the negotiations, announced the nation’s major freight railroads have also reached tentative agreements with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the American Train Dispatchers Association, which together represent about 6,000 more rail employees.

The two sets of agreements together involve five of the 12 unions in the national bargaining with tentative pacts.

But those five agreements with the unions must still be ratified by rail workers, and even then leaves seven unions still without agreements approved by leadership, amid reports many workers think the deal is insufficient.

In fact, more than 9 in 10 freight railroad workers believe they should go on strike to secure better wages and working conditions, according to a new online survey by Railroad Workers United, a grassroots organization representing rank-and-file rail workers.

(See More Below)





The vast majority of workers surveyed said they would reject agreements based on the PEB recommendations

The unions have been asking for a pay hike of 31%, and other provisions not in the PEB’s recommendations. The 24% raise split the difference between the unions’ demand and the 17% hike the NCCC first offered, which in this inflationary environment it almost certainly knew would not be enough to get a deal done.

The PEB recommendations were a “vast improvement” over the railroads’ previous proposals, said Jeremy Ferguson, president of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division union that represents conductors. But, he added, “the recommendations do not go far enough to provide our members with the quality of life that they have earned, and that both they and their families deserve.”

Under the Railway Labor Act, the railroads and unions remain in a 30-day "cooling off" period. Voluntary settlements with all unions would avert any potential disruptions to rail service after the cooling-off period ends Sept. 16.

Even then, under Federal law, Congress can impose a contract on rail carriers and the union. Or it can appoint arbitrators to fast-track a new contract.

Any thoughts on the rail labor talks? Let us know your at the Feedback section below.




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