Railway Workers Group seeks to torpedo freight agreement | So Good News
A rail worker advocacy group is urging union members to vote down a tentative contract deal brokered by the Biden administration last month — and be prepared to strike if significant changes aren’t made by December.
Railroad Workers United urged supporters in a message Thursday to vote “no” on the tentative deal, saying it is too similar to a set of recommendations from an emergency board convened by President Joe Biden in July. Unions considered the recommendations of the emergency board not to take up controversial scheduling and sick leave proposals.
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Although the RWU is not directly involved in the talks, it represents the restless left wing of the labor movement that has gained influence since the pandemic began. Some union members have shown more willingness to reject initial proposals with management, citing record earnings for managers while working conditions worsen.
If union leaders and rail executives cannot agree on a better proposal by Dec. 7, “then railroad workers would and should be free to exercise their right to strike, fulfilling the desire to do so as expressed by the membership last summer,” said the group. In a leaflet sent out to members, the RWU said the current proposal does not address underlying issues with staffing and attendance policies and that the proposed 24% pay rise would be largely eaten up by inflation.
The “vote no” campaign comes three days after the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes voted against the tentative agreement. Four other unions have ratified the agreement, and a further seven are scheduled to hold votes until the end of November.
The National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, with about 2,400 members, was scheduled to finish voting Thursday.
It could only take one union to trigger a nationwide rail strike. If one group were to go on strike, others might refuse to cross the strike, leading to a railroad lockout similar to the one that triggered the last major shutdown in 1992.