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Rail strike averted after marathon talks reach tentative agreement – ​​KION546

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Chris Isidore, Vanessa Yurkevich, Jeremy Diamond, CNN Business

Unions and management reached a tentative agreement early Thursday morning to avoid a freight rail strike that threatened to cripple U.S. supply chains and push up prices for many commodities.

The deal with labor unions representing more than 50,000 engineers and conductors is “an important victory for our economy and the American people,” a White House statement issued shortly after 5 a.m. ET said. Stated.

This came after 20 hours of talks between union leaders and the railroad’s labor negotiators, hosted by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. They began meeting Wednesday morning as the clocks were ticking into the strike, which was set to begin at 12:01 a.m. ET on Friday.

President Joe Biden personally called around 9 p.m. Wednesday to speak with negotiators, according to people familiar with the negotiations. Biden stressed that a shutdown of the railroad could be devastating to families, businesses and communities.

The agreement does not mean that the threat of strikes has completely disappeared. This transaction must be ratified by the members. But it’s good news for a wide range of companies that rely on freight rail, and for the U.S. economy as a whole. About 30% of domestic freight moves by rail.

So far, few details of the deal have been made public. But Biden’s statement showed that the major issues that brought the country within a day of its first nationwide railroad strike in 30 years had been dealt with in favor of the union.

“The tens of thousands of railroad workers who have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that American families and communities get what has sustained us during this difficult time,” Biden said in a statement. It’s a win,” he said. “These rail workers get higher wages, better working conditions and peace of mind about their medical bills – all hard-earned.”

The controversy was over staffing shortages and scheduling rules that union leaders said had pushed union members to a breaking point. They often require short notice to be ready to come to work, he said. Officials from both unions said union members would not accept the contract unless labor rules were changed.

Biden said of the deal, “It’s also a win for the railroad, which will be able to secure and recruit more workers for the railroad industry that will remain part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.” said.

It’s an important win for Mr. Biden, who had to make bad choices without a deal. Supporting congressional action demanded by the business community to impose contracts on workers would have angered his supporters within the unions. Just before the midterm elections, prolonging work stoppages risked a huge economic impact.

Railroad workers are governed by different labor laws than most workers, limiting their freedom to strike and allowing government intervention. In July, Biden issued an order to stop the then-strike and created a panel known as the Presidential Emergency Committee to try to find a solution to the dispute.

A 60-day cooling-off period was also imposed, during which unions could not strike and management could not lock out workers. That cooling-off period was due to end early Friday morning.

Biden could not have ordered the railroads to continue operating after the cooling-off period ended on Friday.

With a wide range of business groups calling for action in Congress, Republicans were preparing a bill that would make the deal railroad owners want. However, Democrats opposed taking such action.

Union sources said Democrats’ refusal to side with management was key to the negotiations.

“The inaction of Senate leadership has given room for these negotiations,” said a union source.

“Yesterday was a slog,” he said, back and forth many times.

“Our people weren’t going to give up,” said a source. If no deal was reached by Friday’s deadline, “our people would have been on strike.”

The American Railroad Association also applauded the deal, thanking the Biden administration and the labor unions themselves for playing an agreed role.

The deal will provide members with an immediate 14% pay increase in arrears backdated to 2020, for a total pay increase of 24% over the five-year contract period from 2020 to 2024. Year. These terms were recommended by a presidential commission trying to find a solution to the negotiation deadlock at the time.

Those terms have been lucrative enough for most rail unions to agree to interim deals in recent weeks. Engineers and conductors faced working and scheduling rules that didn’t apply to others and refused to sign without alleviating the scheduling problem. .

Major freight rail shares of Union Pacific, CSX and Norfolk Southern rose 1% to 3% in pre-market trading on the news. Shares of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the fourth national freight rail line, also rose slightly.

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