Important trade union for freight trains BMED extends deadline for strike that threatens the American economy


An AC4400CW Diesel-Electric Locomotive in Union Pacific colors, is seen prior to a possible strike if there is no deal with the trade unions of railway workers, since a Metrolink-Force train (right) arrives at Union Station in Los Angeles, California, 15 September, 2022.

Bing Guan | Reuters

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, the third largest railway union in the country, extends its status quo period (no strike, no lock-out) in which she wants to continue the negotiations with the freight transporters.

In a message on its website, the BMWED union explained that it moved the end of the cooling-off period from November 19 to December 4, the same date on which the Brotherhood of Signalmen Union (BRS)-the other railway union to reject the proposed deal with the Railway management, recommended by the Biden government-the status quo period ends. The trade union of the Seingever has another meeting with the carriers on their struggle for paid illness that is offered to federal contractors on Wednesday afternoon, which has been an important bottleneck in labor discussions.

In the meantime, two major railway unions will vote on the ratification of the deal on November 21: The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the Smart Transportation Division.

“With this extension, BLET and SMART-TD get the chance to complete their ratification procedures for any provisional national agreements without interruption. Some deadline, to complete the national negotiations,” said the BMED.

A trade union spokesperson explained to CNBC that if the Blet or Smart-TD does not ratify, the end of the new cooling period would be on December 8. That means that at the earliest a possible strike would take place on December 9.

Trade group for the freight industry, The Association of American Railroads, said in a press release that this expansion offers more certainty for the economy, train customers and train travelers intended to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. The railway industry has previously estimated the costs for the economy of a rail strike at 2 billion dollars a day.

“This agreement to extend the cooling-off period gives all trade union employees the opportunity to vote on their agreements without an imminent strike threat,” said Aar President and CEO Ian Jefferies in the statement. “Our goal remains the same – the successful completion of this negotiating round – and we are ready to reach an agreement with BMWED based on the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board.”

Union PacificBerkshire Hathaway’s BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern and the American railways owned by Canadian National, belong to the class I freight railways represented by the Aar.

Industries throughout the American economy express their concerns. The National Association of Manufacturers placed concerned on its website about the impact of a railway strike in a segment of the economy that is still confronted with challenges in the supply chain.

Last Thursday, a group of nearly 200 agricultural trading groups, known as the Agricultural Transportation Working Group and including the National Grain & Feed Association, a letter to the congress stating that a “strike or exclusion in combination with existing challenges in the rail system, At our ports, with trucks and with record low water levels on the Mississippi River who have an impact on numerous inland shipping shipments, catastrophic for agricultural and wider US economies would be. “

The BMWED was the first railway union that voted against the ratification of an employment contract that was negotiated in collaboration with the PEB of Biden. All 12 trade unions must ratify an employment contract to prevent the possibility of a national closure of the track.

Based on the Railroad Work Act, the congress has the option of imposing the resolution of the presidential emergency council of Biden, or to run the trains as usual with an extension of the negotiations.

Richard Edelman, counsel for BMED and chief spokesman in the collective negotiations, said that a recent joint proposal of four pages of the Brotherhood of Signalmen Union (BRS) and BMED for paid disease leave was presented to the carriers, but the carriers said no.

The BRS became the second union that rejected the provisional agreement two weeks ago, with more than 60% of its members who rejected it during the highest participation mood in its history. The trade unions that have rejected the deal consistently said that railway management underestimates the frustration and anger of railway workers, especially when it comes to problems with the quality of life, such as paid leave.

Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz laughed during a recent CNBC “Squawk on the Street” interview when asked if the railway was preparing for a possible strike.

“Let’s not anticipate things,” said Fritz. “We have something to negotiate with that trade union and we have agreed to the status quo, we are in the status quo while we do that. I am convinced that we will find a way to conclude an agreement that can be possible are taken back for ratification. That does not mean that a strike is not possible, it just means that I think I don’t think it’s likely. We have enough runway to find out. “

The agreement, based on the PEB recommendations of President Biden, includes the largest wage increases in almost five decades and would lead to immediate payments of on average more than $ 11,000 per train driver prior to the holidays.

In a letter drawn up for rail workers on November 1 to send to their congress members and was placed on the BMED website, the trade union stated: “During the pandemie we were told that we had been classified as ‘federal contractors’ for the purposes of the vaccine mandate. Turn, we ask for the 56 -hour paid sick leave as currently prescribed to federal contractors. “

Edelman said that the recent trade union proposal rejected by the rails is a reflection of the implementation decision for federal contractors.

“The lack of a recommendation for paid sick leave by PEB [Presidential Emergency Board] 250, and the refusal of the carriers to agree to paid sick leave was an important factor for members who voted against ratification, “said Edelman.

In addition to sickness benefit, Edeman said, because there are usually years of negotiations about changes in agreements, members express their concern about wage increases that keep pace with the costs of living and their costs for health and welfare benefits.

De Aar told CNBC that it had updated the explanation of the leave policy in mid -October. In a report of September, De Aar quantified the impact of a strike on the supply chain and the US economy at a maximum of $ 2 billion a day.

The BMWED has its proposal for paid sick leave on the NCCC on its website.

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