Railroad union negotiations have hit an impasse, threatening possible rail worker strikes beginning Friday.
- Negotiations between the union and several railroad companies have been in the works for several years, but a recent hitch in negotiations could lead to nationwide strikes.
- The remaining issue revolves around sick days for engineers and conductors and current policies unions say punish them for getting sick.
- Railroad labor unions represent 140,000 workers from freight companies including Union Pacific, CSX, and BNSF Railway. The unions have been negotiating better wages, working conditions, and time off.
- The White House has been watching the negotiations closely and some officials have been involved in meetings attempting to resolve the dispute, reports Yahoo Finance.
- If the rail workers do strike, the U.S. supply chain would take a massive hit. A strike could cost the U.S. $2 billion per day and potentially shut down around 30% of U.S. freight capacity. The majority of passenger and commuter trains would also be affected.
- In a joint statement on Monday, two of the unions—the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and SMART-TD—gave an update, saying that the unions and the corporations are not close to an agreement.
- Some railroads have already paused shipments of hazardous materials to prevent the freight from being left unattended on the rails Friday.
Why it’s news
A railroad strike could greatly reduce traffic along the U.S. supply chain. While many of the smaller unions appear to have tentatively accepted the current deal from rail corporations, the remaining two unions make up nearly half of all rail workers.
In addition to freight trains, commuter and passenger trains will likely also be affected by a strike, leaving those dependent on rail transportation to get to work stranded. A supply-chain disruption of this size could be devastating to the U.S. economy.
The trucking industry will be unable to make up the difference in shipping needs. The industry is already struggling with its own shortage of drivers.
White House officials are already getting involved in negotiations, hoping to find a resolution. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said that failure to reach an agreement would be a “damaging supply shock to the economy.”
On Monday, President Joe Biden reportedly made calls to union leaders, attempting to dissuade them from striking, The Washington Post reports.
Agriculture and trucking groups are asking Congress to intervene. Legislation could be passed that would force both parties to follow direction from an emergency board, dealing a strike.
The last rail strike in the U.S. was 30 years ago. The effects of the strike were so extreme that after three days Congress stepped in to ban the strikes.
Trains represent an important part of the U.S. supply chain. . .
- Freight trains are an $80-billion industry, covering 140,000 miles
- 27.9% of U.S. freight is shipped via railway, second largest behind trucking which handles 39.6% of freight
- 52% of rail freight is agriculture, energy, and other bulk commodities
- 48% of rail freight is consumer goods