September 14, 2022 - Rail strike? Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) has been keeping you informed of the situation with the railroad workers unions that have now voted to strike on September 29 if their demands are not met. AIM, along with other Midwest manufacturing associations, saw this trainwreck coming and sent a letter to Congress asking for them to intervene before a railroad workers strike costs the country $2 billion a day.
Ten of the twelve unions have already agreed to terms with the railroads, or are close to signing agreements, while the two largest unions are still holding out. Their vote on Wednesday to strike could allow 115,000 rail workers to walk off their jobs on September 29, leaving the United States in a desperate situation for shipping goods and materials right as they are needed most during the Christmas season. While there are other means of transportation, trains are still the only means capable of handling such a large amount of product.
This is not a new development. The Biden administration set a 30 day cooling off period after the White House-appointed Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) released contract recommendations that call for 24 percent raises, back pay and cash bonuses.
The concern that is holding up the ratification of a contract is punishing hours and rigid schedules. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division, which represent 57,000 conductors and engineers complain that workers cannot secure time off, even for scheduled doctor’s appointments or family events, and are disciplined whenever they miss a day for any reason. They say they don’t receive sufficient notice or rest before starting a days-long shift that could take them hundreds of miles from home. The Association of American Railroads states that workers are not penalized if they maintain adequate availability. The PEB advised workers and supervisors that scheduling issues should be done at a local level and not be a part of a national contract.
In their letter, AIM and others pushed for Congress to use their authority to impose the PEB contract recommendations. Republicans in Congress are willing and ready to do this as they have proposed a joint resolution to this effect. Democrats are floating proposals that would be more “worker-friendly” but are ready to enact legislation to stop the strike if necessary. If an agreement is not reached, Congress could extend the cooling off period to prevent a walkout. Congress last voted to end a railroad strike 30 years ago.
We will keep you updated on this situation as we get more details.