Renewed opportunity for nationwide rail strike after union rejects deal | So Good News


In a statement released today, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division union announced that its members rejected the tentative national agreement reached with the Class I freight railroads that renews the possibility of a nationwide rail strike that will halt rail freight.

The vote saw 11,845 BMWED members’ ballots in favour, 6,646 against ratification (or 56%) and 5,100 approving the provisional agreement with 99 remaining ballots being sent blank or voided due to another user error.

“The majority of BMWED members rejected the tentative national agreement, and we recognize and understand the outcome,” said President Tony D. Cardwell. “I trust that the railway management also understands that feeling. Railway workers are disheartened and upset about working conditions and compensation and bring the employer into disrepute. Railway people do not feel valued. 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 result of this vote indicates that there is much work to be done to establish goodwill and improve the morale that has been broken by railroad executives and Wall Street hedge fund managers.”

The rejection of the preliminary agreement results in a “status quo” period during which BMWED will resume negotiations with the Class I freight carriers. This status quo period will extend until 5 days after Congress reconvenes, which is currently set for November 14th. Assuming Congress goes back into session on the 14th, there can be no “self-help” until after the 19th.

Last month, the BNSF, Union Pacific, Kansas City Southern, CSX and Norfolk Southern unions approved the “tentative agreement” with members of the American Train Dispatchers Association voting to accept the deal earlier this month. The agreement secured a 24% raise, a $5,000 bonus for workers and a cap on health insurance costs.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers initially rejected the agreement, but has since renegotiated a new contract.

All 12 unions representing a total of 125,000 workers (60,000 railroad workers and 45,000 engineers and conductors) must vote to approve the deal. Two largest unions representing engineers and conductors — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers unions — won’t vote on their tentative agreements until mid-November.

“A shutdown of the nation’s rail service would have enormous national consequences,” US Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil L. Bradley said in the letter last month.

On July 15, 2022, President Joe Biden stepped in and delayed a strike by railroad workers as it affects essential services across the country. The action appointed an emergency board of arbitrators that gave negotiators a 60-day window to find a solution no later than September 15, 2022. By August 16, the presidential emergency board, appointed by the White House, recommended a new deal that would keep wages below inflation, remove a cap on individual health care contributions and maintain unilateral management control of attendance policies.

Many companies depend on railways to deliver their raw materials and finished products, and to transport waste.

Five months ago, the Snohomish County solid waste facility was forced to close for two days to remove excess waste that built up due to a lack of intermodal containers to transport trash to landfills. In mid-September, the Snohomish County Solid Waste Division announced that it was preparing for possible temporary facility closures that month due to ongoing issues with regional rail transportation.

A rail strike will mean a complete shutdown of transfer stations and solid waste disposal bins because no rubbish can be moved to landfills. This will affect the weekly collection of rubbish, recycling and green waste for households and businesses.

The unions have until 19 Novemberth to reach an agreement, or the nation’s 125,000 railroad workers will walk off the job, crippling the nation’s lifeline.


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