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Rail News: Labor

BRS union extends deadline for contract deal


The National Carriers' Conference Committee, which represents the nation's major freight railroads in collective bargaining, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen have agreed to extend their existing "status quo" period until midnight Dec. 9.

The announcement means that the status quo periods for all unions that have not yet ratified agreements with the railroads are now aligned, NCCC officials said in a press release.

Eight of the 12 rail unions have ratified the tentative agreement based on the recommendations of Presidential Emergency Board No. 250 and negotiations with the Biden administration. BRS members voted in late October to reject ratification. The BRS represents about 6,000 rail workers affected by the negotiations.

On Monday, SMART-TD — one of the largest rail unions — announced its ratification vote results were split, with train-and-engine members voting to reject the contract and yardmaster members voting to approve it. A status quo agreement between SMART-TD and the freight railroads is in effect until 12:01 a.m. Dec. 9.

The other unions that rejected the tentative agreement are the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers and Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division.

A rail strike could occur if just one of the four unions fail to reach an agreement during their status quo period. Leaders of the other unions have said that they will honor a strike if one union decides to exercise that option.

Meanwhile, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in an interview yesterday that a rail strike would be unacceptable, but he declined to say whether President Biden's administration would support rail workers if they strike.

"We've got to get to a solution that does not subject the American economy to the threat of a shutdown," Buttigieg said in the interview with "We don’t have enough trucks or barges or ships in this country to make up for the rail network."

If the railroads and unions can't reach a final agreement, Congress could step in and force one. A rail strike could cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion a day, according to the Association of American Railroads.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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