A GE AC4400CW diesel-electric locomotive in Union Pacific livery, is seen ahead of a possible strike if there is no agreement with the railway unions, as a Metrolink commuter train (right) arrives at the Union Station in Los Angeles, California on September 15, 2022.
Bing Guan | Reuters
The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen is the second union to reject the tentative agreement between railroad unions, freight railroads and the Biden administration reached on September 15 and essential to avert a nationwide railroad strike of iron.
The BRS, which represents more than 10,000 railway workers and is one of the last three unions at the bargaining table, overwhelmingly rejected the deal, with 39.23% of members approving and 60.57% voting against.
“For the first time in my memory, BRS members voted against ratifying a national accord, and with the highest turnout in BRS history,” said the president of the BRS. BRS, Michael Baldwin, in a statement. “I have expressed my disappointment throughout the process at the lack of good faith negotiation on the part of the NCCC [National Carriers Conference Committee]as well as the PEB part [Presidential Advisory Board] 250 played by denying BRS members the basic right to paid sick leave. The NCCC and PEB also failed to recognize the safety-sensitive and high-stress work that BRS members do every day to keep the railroad and supply chain running..”
The rejection of the national tentative agreement begins a period of “status quo” during which the union will re-engage with the NCCC until December 4.
A spokesperson for the Association of American Railroads told CNBC, “The parties have agreed to maintain the status quo so that discussions on next steps can progress.”
The AAR spokesperson cited the fact that half of all railroad unions have ratified agreements based on President Biden’s PEB recommendations, which include the largest wage increases in nearly five decades and would result in immediate payouts averaging more than $11,000 per railroad worker before the holidays.
“Once in place, contracts developed in partnership with the most labor-friendly administration will allow railroads and railroad workers to thrive in the future and serve both our customers and our families. “said the spokesman for the railways.
The railroads estimated that a rail strike could cost the economy $2 billion a day.
The BRS vote against ratification follows the Brotherhood of Way Maintenance Employees (BMWED) voting not to ratify the tentative agreement on Oct. 10. Logistics officials told CNBC they are considering a possible strike again after the September deal appeared to reduce the threat.
In a letter released to members on Wednesday, BMWED President Tony Cardwell said: “Before discussing the details surrounding the bargaining process, I must confront some fringe groups proposing dangerous ideas of unauthorized work stoppages. It’s true that this round of National Bargaining has brought different perspectives, complicated conversations and tough choices. A difference in perspective from a range of members is a good thing even if it gets a little messy. However, we we’re not facing a situation so dire that we can’t use our collective strength to get a satisfactory deal without breaking the law.”
Cardwell said on Nov. 1 and 2, the union will host a series of video meetings for members.
The BMWED union can strike on November 19 at the earliest.
Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz told CNBC during an interview on BMWED’s “Squawk on the Street” last Thursday, “We have negotiations to do with this union and we have accepted the status quo, we are in the status quo for that we I am confident that we will find a way to write an agreement that can be withdrawn for ratification This does not mean that a strike is not possible, it just means that in my opinion I do not think that this is likely. We have plenty of leads to figure it out.”
Union Pacific, Berkshire Hathawayfrom the BNSF, CSX, South Norfolk and the American railroads belonging to Canadian nationI am one of the class I freight railways represented by the NCCC.
Union spokespersons have pointed out that the railways underestimate the resistance of union members on issues related to quality of life and benefits, including paid vacations, that they do not believe that the current agreement in principle covers satisfactorily.
“The railroads consistently underestimate the frustration and anger of workers. Workers can’t take it anymore,” Richard Edelman, BMWED attorney and chief collective bargaining spokesperson, told CNBC last week. . “The decision of the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) is only a recommendation. It is not a cap. The carriers have decided not to make more than the net equivalent of the PEB.”
Caldwell added in his letter to members: “BMWED management has launched a campaign to inform the public and lawmakers of the railroads’ reluctance to offer basic sick leave while carrier executives bow to Wall Street’s continued desire for more than its fair share. As long as they take this position, all we can do is encourage solidarity and prepare ourselves to exercise self-help.”
BMWED is the third largest union with 23,900 members. The 12 unions representing a total of 115,000 workers must ratify their contracts to avoid a possible closure of the national freight rail system. Six railway unions voted to ratify the agreement.
Under the Railway Labor Act, Congress has the power to impose Biden’s Emergency Presidential Council resolution or order trains to operate as usual with an extension of negotiations.
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