On Monday, one of the largest rail unions in the country rejected a Biden administration-brokered deal with railways over concerns regarding working conditions, forcing both sides back to the bargaining table and raising the specter of a potentially devastating strike next month.
The vote drew record turnout, with nearly 12,000 members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED) casting a ballot, rejecting the deal with 56% opposed, according to a BMWED press release. The Biden-sponsored deal includes a 24% raise over the next five years, $5,000 in annual bonuses and attendance policy exemptions for medical purposes, but BMWED President Tony Cardwell said that workers were still concerned about working conditions and sick leave, the Associated Press reported Monday.
“The majority of the BMWED membership rejected the tentative national agreement and we recognize and understand that result,” said Cardwell in the BMWED press release. “BMWED members are concerned with the direction of their employers and the mismanagement and greed in which they have consistently implemented, and are united in their resolve to improve their working conditions across the entire Class I rail network.”
“We are disappointed that members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED) have declined to ratify the recent tentative agreement (‘TA’) between the BMWED and the nation’s freight railroads,” the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC) said in a Monday statement. The NRLC went on to discuss the benefits of the deal, including travel reimbursements of up to 50% for those employees in traveling roles.
While four of the dozen rail unions have thus far ratified the deal, if the members of any union fail to agree to the terms, all 12 unions will go on strike, the AP reported. By rejecting the deal, the BMWED will return to negotiations with railways, entering a “status quo” period where unions cannot strike until Nov. 19, five days after Congress reconvenes, the BWMED stated.
A strike could have disastrous consequences for the U.S. economy, which relies on railways to ship key products such as oil, coal and chemicals used in fertilizers, leading to disruptions that could cause $2 billion in economic damages per day, according to the American Association of Railroads, who represent railway management. Nearly 40% of all long-distance trade in the U.S. occurs on rail, and replacing them with trucks would require a fleet of nearly half a million trucks, a logistical impossibility, according to the American Trucking Association.
When asked by the Daily Caller News Foundation about what the BMWED’s management would consider to be a fair deal, Communications Director Clark Ballew said “The union’s management is the BMWED rank and file members and they rejected the tentative agreement.”
The American Association of Railroads referred the DCNF to the NRLC’s statement. Neither the White House nor the Department of Labor immediately responded to the DCNF’s request for comment.
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