Last Updated on November 21, 2022
One of the largest railroad worker unions in the United States rejected a wage deal with industry leaders on Monday, raising fears of a strike. Railroad engineers accepted a deal with the railroads that will deliver 24% raises, but the group representing conductors, known as SMART Transportation Division, voted against the deal, CBS News reported.
“SMART-TD members with their votes have spoken, it’s now back to the bargaining table for our operating craft members,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said in a statement. “This can all be settled through negotiations and without a strike. A settlement would be in the best interests of the workers, the railroads, shippers and the American people.”
While SMART-TD, which boasts 36,000 members, opted to reject the latest proposal, another major union voted to accept. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) — which is the nation’s largest railroad workers union other than SMART-TD voted to ratify the deal. BLET added that they would stand with the other unions at the picket line if a strike began in December, however.
“We stood shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in SMART-TD and others in rail labor throughout this process and we will continue to stand in solidarity with them as we approach the finish line in this round of negotiations,” said Dennis Pierce, president of BLE.
Monday’s vote follows the rejection by three other railroad worker unions of deals with the railroads that the Biden Administration helped broker before the initial strike deadline in September. Seven smaller unions have opted to approve the five-year deal that in addition to the 24% increase in salary, includes one-time bonuses of $5,000.
But workers who voted no have stated that it is not enough, as railroad workers continue to struggle with long hours on-call due to a shortage of workers. All 12 unions must ratify the deal in order to prevent a strike that could cripple the nation’s supply chain the holiday season.
The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way (BMWED) is scheduled to strike on December 5 with The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), CNBC reported. BMWED announced that it would extend its cooling off period if one of the larger unions in SMART-TD or BLET rejected the deal, which the former did on Monday. The BRS has not yet indicated whether it will extend its deadline for talks.
SMART-TD, BMWED and BRS represent more than 50% of all railroad labor.
The rail industry has estimated the impact of a strike at $2 billion per day. A strike would affect all of the major rail operators, including Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern and CSX, CNBC reported.
A strike could begin as early as December 5.