Railway workers: Major union rejects agreement | So Good News
OMAHA, Neb. –
The third-largest rail union rejected its freight rail deal on Monday – renewing the possibility of a strike that could cripple the economy – but before that can happen, both sides will return to the bargaining table.
About 56% of track maintenance workers represented by the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division union who voted opposed the five-year contract, even though it included 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses. Union president Tony Cardwell said the railroads were not doing enough to address workers’ concerns about the lack of paid time off – especially sick time – and demanding working conditions after the major railroads eliminated nearly a third of their jobs over the past six years.
“Railway workers are discouraged and upset about working conditions and compensation and hold their employer in low regard. Railroad workers do not feel valued,” Cardwell said in a statement. “They resent the fact that management does not consider their quality of life, illustrated by their stubborn reluctance to grant a higher amount of paid time off, especially for sickness.”
The railways did not immediately comment on the rejected contract.
Four other railroad unions have approved their agreements with freight railroads that include BNSF, Union Pacific, Kansas City Southern, CSX and Norfolk Southern, but all 12 unions representing a total of 115,000 workers must ratify their contracts to prevent a strike. Another union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, initially rejected the deal, but has since renegotiated a new contract. The vote will not be completed until mid-November.
U.S. President Joe Biden pressured railroads and unions to reach an agreement last month ahead of a mid-September deadline to allow strikes or walkouts. Many companies also urged Congress to be ready to intervene in the dispute and block a strike if an agreement was not reached because so many companies depend on railroads to deliver their raw materials and finished products.
In general, the agreements the unions agreed to follow are the recommendations a special panel of arbitrators that Biden appointed came up with this summer. The Presidential Emergency Board recommended what would be the largest raise railroad workers have seen in more than four decades, but it did not address union concerns about working conditions. Instead, it said the unions should pursue further negotiations or arbitration that could take years with each railroad individually.
The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way union said it agreed to delay any strike until five days after Congress reconvenes in mid-November to allow time for further negotiations.