The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents the nation’s freight rail carriers in national collective bargaining, today issued the following statement:
BLET, which represents engineers and trainmen, has successfully ratified its recent collective bargaining agreement with the nation’s freight railroads, bringing the bargaining round to a close for more than 20,000 additional rail employees.
Membership voting results at SMART-TD, which holds two separate contracts, were split. With approximately two thirds of the membership participating, the first agreement, which covers about 28,000 employees in the conductor, brakemen, engine service, and yardmen groups, was not ratified by a margin of less than 1%. The second SMART-TD agreement, which covers approximately 1,300 yardmasters, was successfully ratified.
The SMART-TD national negotiating committee had unanimously and strongly recommended approval of the agreements.
Nine of thirteen agreements covering about half of all rail employees in the bargaining round have been successfully ratified and are now in effect. All of these agreements were based on the framework recommended by Presidential Emergency Board 250, which includes the largest wage increases in nearly five decades and maintains employees’ platinum-level healthcare coverage. President Biden resoundingly endorsed agreements based on these recommendations as a “win for tens of thousands of rail workers.”
The four unions that have not fully resolved the bargaining round – SMART-TD (with respect to only one of its contracts), BMWED, BRS, and IBB – are subject to an agreed-upon cooling off period until early December. Although leaders of these unions initially endorsed the agreements – and all the unions presented themselves as a unified group throughout the PEB process with common proposals – at least three of these unions now demand terms that exceed those recommended by the PEB and that have been accepted by all the other rail unions. They have threatened to strike if the additional demands are not met.
A national rail strike would severely impact the economy and the public. Now, the continued, near-term threat of one will require that freight railroads and passenger carriers soon begin to take responsible steps to safely secure the network in advance of any deadline.
The railroads remain willing to enter agreements that are based on the PEB-recommended framework. Should the unions without ratified agreements remain unwilling to do so, they are expected to strike and Congress may need to intervene – just as it has in the past – to prevent disruption of the national rail system.