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Rail Deadline Extended; Strike Threat Delayed

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees has agreed to extend their current status quo operating period for collective bargaining negotiations with the Class I railroads.

  • The BMWE was the sole remaining union that had not previously agreed to move the deadline set for Nov. 19. This extension offers negotiators additional time as they seek to conclude an agreement and end the months-old threat of a catastrophic rail strike.

The administration weighs in: This development comes within days of Labor Secretary Marty Walsh stating that he expects Congress to intervene should no voluntary agreement be reached.

The situation: This extension will push the expiration of the cooling-off period until at least Dec. 4. The date may be subject to further extension to maintain alignment with other unions’ agreements.

  • If the parties are unable to come to an agreement by the end of that period, rail labor unions could strike—causing immense damage to the economy and national supply chains.
  • Manufacturers should expect notification of service metering from their rail carriers in the week leading up to the Dec. 4 deadline should a strike appear imminent or likely.

The tools: The NAM is already working to encourage the negotiating parties to finalize an agreement. Our advocacy also includes direct communication with congressional and administration leaders to ensure policymakers are prepared for legislative action that would end the dispute.   

Our take: “Manufacturers are encouraged to see that all the unions have now agreed to extend the deadline for reaching and ratifying an agreement,” NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons told CNBC.

  • “It provides some temporary breathing room for operational and logistical planning for manufacturers and delays any rail service interruptions. We hope that this extension will provide the additional time necessary for all parties to conclude a voluntary agreement, as has been our hope throughout.”
  • “Any disruption to rail service would have devastating economic and inflationary effects, so in line with Secretary Walsh’s comments yesterday, we continue urging congressional leaders to be prepared to act should a work stoppage appear imminent.”
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