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Railroad Strike Remains a Threat

By NAM News Room

Concerns about a possible railroad strike are intensifying after a third railroad union rejected a White House–supported deal to resolve the ongoing collective bargaining process, according to CNN.

No deal: The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers pulled out of the tentative agreement with the railroads on Monday.

  • Among the 12 labor unions that make up the rail workforce, two others previously rejected the proposed deal in October, and seven have ratified the agreement.
  • The remaining two unions are expected to finalize their votes as soon as this week. If no deal is unanimously agreed to by the end of the current cooling-off period, the unions could go on strike as soon as Dec. 4. 

The context: “Labor relations at railroads are subject to a different labor law than the one that governs workers at most U.S. businesses,” according to CNN. “Railroad unions face limits on when they can strike and are prohibited from taking action during the ‘status quo’ periods that follow a no-vote by the membership.”

Congressional intervention: Congress has the tools to prevent or limit any strike through legislation and advancing that legislation will require bipartisan collaboration.

  • The NAM has supported the collective bargaining process and expressed a desire for a voluntary agreement between the parties. However, it is currently engaged with policymakers of both parties and in both Houses of Congress to urge legislative action should it become necessary. 

Time to bargain: Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has been a key leader in the effort to avoid a strike by mediating between the rail management and the unions. He was instrumental in creating the tentative agreement reached in September. While the unions have thus far advocated against congressional intervention, Walsh recently acknowledged that such action may be required to prevent a shutdown of vital supply chain links. 

  • If “for some reason [one of the unions] doesn’t get to an agreement with the companies … Congress will have to take action to avert a strike in our country,” Walsh said in a CNN interview.
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