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NRF-led letter calls on the White House to work with U.S. railroads and unions to avoid a strike

NRF-led letter calls on the White House to work with U.S. railroads and unions to avoid a strike

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In a joint letter to President Biden, 322 local, state, and federal trade associations—spearheaded by the Washington, D.C.-based National Retail Federation (NRF)—calling on the Biden to continue to work with the United States railroad labor unions and railroads to ensure the tentative agreement between the parties, which was brokered by the White House, is ratified.

“It is paramount that these contracts now be ratified, as rail shutdown would have a significant impact on the U.S. economy and lead to further inflationary pressure,” the letter stated. “We applaud your Administration for leading on this issue from the onset. With your help, from establishing the Presidential Emergency Board to involvement in the direct negotiations among the parties, the tentative agreement was reached on September 15. We have seen six of the twelve unions ratify the agreement to date.”  

As previously reported, those agreements followed the announcement of the appointment of the Presidential Advisory Board (PEB) by President Biden focused on reaching a new deal. The August 16 release of the PEB’s recommendations, which include a 24% wage increase over the five-year period from 2020 through 2024, coupled with a 14.1% wage increase. It also includes an immediate payout on average of $11,000 upon ratification and $5,000 in performance bonuses, total average annual pay reaching $110,000, according to the Association of American Railroads. AAR also stated that through the PEB’s recommendations, railroad employees would maintain some of the best healthcare plans in the U.S., as well as receive an additional day of personal time off and also continue to have multiple options for time off, adding that for those railroad employees operating trains the agreements include what it called enhanced abilities to schedule time off and local agreements to be finalized following ratification of the national agreement, which will augment quality of life and schedule predictability.

The letter also observed that two railroad labor unions—the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED) and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen—have rejected the conditions of the tentative agreement, highlighting concerns that other railroad unions may follow suite. What’s more, the T&E (train and equipment) unions, BLET and SMART-TD ratification dates are not until November 17, with their outcomes potentially playing a major part in how things could go, according to industry observers.

If other unions were to, in fact, fail to ratify the tentative agreement, the letter explained that it could potentially result in a strike that would shut down the entire freight rail system.

“Because the White House played such a central role in the process, we believe it can be helpful in continuing to move the process forward in a positive direction,” the letter stated. “Otherwise, Congress will be called upon to act. We continue to urge that the contracts be ratified to provide stability and predictability to the system. Your involvement can only help make that happen and ensure there is no interruption to rail service.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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