A railroad employee works at a Union Pacific Intermodal Terminal rail yard on November 21, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.
Mario Tama | Getty Images
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives passed legislation that would impose a temporary agreement for railroad workers and thwart a nationwide strike. The bill now goes to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, has promised to pass it quickly.
The House of Representatives voted 290-137 — with 79 Republicans joining 211 Democrats — to pass the legislation, which approves new contracts that provide railroad workers a 24% wage increase over five years from 2020 through 2024, and immediate payments at an average $11,000 upon certification, and an additional day off payment.
Eight Democrats and 129 Republicans voted against the legislation.
In a separate vote of 221-207, the House also approved a resolution mandating seven days of paid sick leave in the contract instead of one, the railroad workers’ main disagreement with the existing deal. As it is, railroad workers are not guaranteed paid sick leave.
The vote comes after President Joe Biden called on Congress to intervene in stalled talks between the railroads and some of the industry’s major unions. He met with four leaders in the House and Senate on Tuesday in an effort to avert the economic impacts of the rail strike, which the industry expects will cost the US economy $2 billion a day.
Biden said he was reluctant to override the anti-contract vote by some unions, but shutting down the railroads would “destroy” the economy.
“This bipartisan landslide vote in the House of Representatives shows that Democrats and Republicans agree that shutting down the railroads would be devastating to our economy and to our families across the country. The Senate must now act urgently,” Biden said in a statement.
The railroads and their labor unions were up. 9- Reaching an agreement before the workers undertake to strike.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the Brotherhood for the Maintenance of Road Employees, which is affiliated with the International Brotherhood of Rail Workers, said passing legislation to enforce an agreement would deny them the right to strike and would not solve the rail workers’ problems or concerns.
The union said it was calling on Biden and any member of Congress who “really supports the working class to move quickly by passing any type of reform and regulation that will provide paid sick leave for all railroad workers.”
According to the Association of American Railroads, an industry group, a presidential board set up to help resolve contract talks has reviewed the union’s request for paid sick days and instead offered an additional salary.
“If unions are interested in having a thorough discussion of structural changes as it relates to their sick times, I fully believe that the railway companies would be willing to have a thorough discussion, but [they] They didn’t do it at zero hour,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jeffries at a press conference on the railway’s preparations.
Each union has its own sick day policy, according to the National Railroad Workers’ Conference, or NRLC. If an employee is sick, they must be out of work between four and seven days before they can receive their copy of sick pay.
The temporary work deal gives workers an extra personal day, for a total of three personal days for rail workers. The worker must provide 48 hours notice to request a personal day. The measure, approved by the House of Representatives on Wednesday, would add paid sick leave to the agreement.
senator. said Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. , on social media before the vote, said the initial agreement was not enough.
Strike prep reduces trade
Even the threat of a strike could have effects on rail traffic.
In accordance with federal safety measures, the railroad companies began preparing for the strike seven days in advance of the strike date. Transport companies begin to prioritize the securing and movement of sensitive materials such as chlorine for drinking water and hazardous materials.
Ninety-six hours before the hit, the chemicals are no longer transported. According to the American Chemistry Council, railroad industry data shows a drop in 1,975 carloads of chemical shipments during the week of September 1. 10- When the railways stopped accepting shipments due to the earlier threat of a railway strike.
Corey Rosenbusch, president and CEO of the Fertilizer Institute, said the railroads have told their members that shipments of ammonia, an important ingredient for fertilizer companies, will not be allowed on railroads starting Dec. 1. 4 If no business agreement is reached.
“It usually takes five to seven days for the supply chain to catch up when you have a shutdown,” Rosenbusch said. “Manufacture of fertilizers must be curtailed.”
The four major railroads typically carry more than 80% of agricultural freight traffic, according to the National Grain and Feed Association.
“We are now looking at alternatives to position our product,” said Mike Seifert, the association’s president and chief executive officer. “We have zero flexibility right now. There is no driver, and the barge situation with the water level down only added to that challenge.”
The future of collective bargaining
Brendan Brannon, president of the NRLC, told CNBC that Congress, in voting on the labor deal, is also pressing the future of collective bargaining. He urged Congress to follow the recommendations of the Emergency Presidential Council, which Biden created in July to resolve the ongoing dispute between the major railroads and unions.
The council formulates its recommendations under a principle known as the bargaining pattern, which is the process used by labor unions and employers where demands and entitlements are presented.
“Exemplary bargaining promotes stability in collective bargaining and encourages compromise,” Brannon said. “There are any number of arbitrators and PEBs who have recognized that this is not only acceptable, this is the most appropriate form of settlement for complex negotiations, especially multi-employer and multi-professional agreements.”
A number of industries including the railroad have developed a set of clear bargaining practices, Brannon said, and further negotiation by unions after an initial agreement departs from the framework recommended by the PEB.
“A departure from a pattern would set a precedent that there is still a better outcome achievable, and I think it would be a great pressure and risk to collective bargaining in the future for the railway industry,” he said.