Rail Labor Uncertainty Continues

October 2022

Last month, a rail strike was narrowly averted when the National Carriers' Conference Committee (railroads' negotiators) and the two largest rail labor unions reached a tentative agreement at the eleventh hour. This was welcome news to retail supply chains, and the country, as a full rail strike would have catastrophic impacts on supply chains and the economy.

However, the story isn’t over yet—the membership of all 12 of the rail labor unions must still vote to accept/ratify the terms of the agreement.

The Latest Developments

The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, which represents over 6,000 workers, announced yesterday that its members voted to reject the tentative agreement brokered between railroads and unions in consultation with members of President Biden's administration.

So far, six unions—representing about 20 percent of the 125,000 workers covered by the proposed contracts—have voted to ratify their deals. Two unions, representing around 25 percent of the workers, have now voted no. All 12 unions would need to independently accept a deal in order to resolve negotiations and avoid potential disruption.

What's Next

The two sides have agreed to maintain the status quo period until early December. The cooling off period is scheduled to end as soon as November 19, or five days after Congress is scheduled to return. If negotiations are unsuccessful, Congress could step in to either impose a resolution based on a Presidential Emergency Board plan that was submitted in August, or order trains to operate as usual while the two sides continue to negotiate.

The next union vote, of the International Association of Machinists (IAM), will be held on November 5.  The two unions that were the final two holdouts last month, BLET and SMART-TD, are scheduled to hold their highly-anticipated votes on November 21.

RILA Action

RILA and a coalition of 322 other organizations sent a letter to President Biden this morning, urging the administration to continue to work with railroad unions and railroads to ensure an agreement is ratified. The White House reiterated that the priority is to avoid a shut down and that the administration is in regular contact with both sides.

We will continue to track this issue and share updates with RILA members.  Reach out to RILA with any questions.

  • Public Policy
  • Supply Chain
  • Transportation and Infrastructure

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