UPDATE: Unions, Class Is Reach Tentative Deal to Avoid Strike

Railroad officials and politicians were celebrating the deal to avoid a shutdown on Friday, but the rank and file members still need to see the details. Photo by Justin Franz.

UPDATE: Unions, Class Is Reach Tentative Deal to Avoid Strike

Updated: September 15, 6:54 a.m. MST

By Justin Franz

WASHINGTON — With just 24 hours before the nation’s rail system could have come to a halt, President Joe Biden announced that a tentative deal had been reached between the Class I railroads and labor unions to avoid a strike or lockout starting Friday. 

Members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, SMART Transportation Division and Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen still have to vote on the contract. According to the BLET, it includes pay increases and, perhaps most importantly for the members, “contract language exempting time off for certain medical events from carrier attendance policies.”  The agreement also includes annual lump-sum bonus payments totaling $5,000.

“This is a win for the economy and for the American people,” President Biden wrote on Twitter. “Rail workers will get better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs. I thank both the unions and rail companies for negotiating in good faith.”

“The solidarity shown by our members, essential workers to this economy who keep America’s freight trains moving, made the difference in our Unions obtaining agreement provisions that exceeded the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board,” wrote union officials from BLET and SMART. “We listened when our members told us that a final agreement would require improvements to their quality of life as well as economic gains. As a result, this agreement includes agreement provisions that will create voluntarily assigned days off for members working in thru freight service, and all members will receive one additional paid day off. Most importantly, for the first time ever, the agreement provides our members with the ability to take time away from work to attend to routine and preventive medical care, as well as exemptions from attendance policies for hospitalizations and surgical procedures.”

Earlier in the week, Class I railroads (all five U.S. carriers plus Canadian National’s U.S. operations) began to prepare for a shutdown by parking hazardous materials and other sensitive shipments. Amtrak also began to cancel trains in case of a strike or lockout. Amtrak announced early Thursday that it would begin to immediately restore service. 

This article was posted on: September 15, 2022