The threat of a railroad strike returns just before the holidays as the nation’s largest rail conductor union voted to reject its latest offer.
SMART Transportation Division, the union representing the rail conductors, announced the results on Monday, adding that negotiations have until a December 8 deadline to avoid a potential strike.
“Honestly, this vote is about the frustration that the railroads have created with [their attendance policies] and the deterioration of quality of life as a result for our conductors,” Jared Cassity, the national legislative director at SMART Transportation, told the Washington Post.
“It’s about attendance policies, sick time, fatigue, and the lack of family time. A lot of these things that cannot be seen but are felt by our membership. It’s destroying their livelihoods,” he added.
The attendance policy has been a major focus of the union vote. The deal offered to union workers also included a 24% pay increase by 2024 and updates for workers for healthcare appointments. Unless Congress intervenes or a new deal is struck before the deadline, workers could strike.
Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR), a top Republican on the House subcommittee that includes railroads, spoke out against the potential union strike.
“Look, what a terrible Christmas gift that would be to give to the American people at this point. Right before Christmas, shutting down our supply chain,” Crawford told Politico. “So we’ve got something prepared if necessary, but I’m hoping it’s not necessary.”
The Association of American Railroads (AAR) has estimated that a nationwide shutdown of railroads could result in economic output would likely be at least $2 billion per day. A strike could also have massive consequences beyond rail.
“A single container or trailer on a railcar can contain 2,000 UPS packages, tens of thousands of bananas or hundreds of flat-screen televisions. A rail shutdown would slow or halt these shipments,” the AAR stated.
The Daily Wire previously reported regarding the rejection of a Biden administration proposal by the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the Teamsters (BMWED), which represents nearly 12,000 railroad workers. The group rejected a tentative agreement between railroaders and Class I freight railroads.
Another previous report focused on a second railroad union that rejected the labor deal negotiated by the Biden administration. The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS) voted overwhelmingly to reject the labor deal in a vote, the union said in a statement. The union represents more than 6,000 railroad workers.
“For the first time that I can remember, the BRS members voted not to ratify a National Agreement, and with the highest participation rate in BRS history,” union president Michael Baldwin said in a statement on the union’s website.
In September, railroad companies and labor unions struck the tentative agreement. The deal was negotiated by Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), led by Labor Secretary Martin Walsh.
John Riggolizo contributed to this report.