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Business leaders urge Congress to prevent national railroad strike

By Bill Stephens | November 28, 2022

Negotiations continue between Class I railroads and four unions that rejected their tentative agreements

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Group of people holding picket signs outside building
People with picket signs on sidewalk
Picketers stand outside the Kansas City hotel where the North American Rail Shippers conference included addresses by three Class I CEOs in May. David Lassen

WASHINGTON — With a Dec. 9 deadline looming, a coalition of more than 400 business groups today urged Congress to prevent a national railroad strike that would cripple the economy.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, along with trade groups representing manufacturers and retailers, said a strike would have major economic impacts as railroads curtail shipments of hazardous materials and other goods up to a week before the Dec. 8 negotiating deadline.

“Chemical manufacturers are one of the first industries that will be impacted as railroads start restricting service up to a week before a threatened strike,” Chris Jahn, CEO of the American Chemistry Council, said in a statement today. “Freight rail transportation is vital for transporting chemicals critical to everyday life, including water treatment, energy production and food production. Shutting down chemical shipments by rail would quickly send shockwaves that would be felt through the entire economy and households across the country.”

The Washington Post reported on Monday afternoon that the Biden Administration was preparing to urge Congress to take action that would avert a strike.

Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by the Association of American Railroads found that 92% of those surveyed said it was important for rail service to continue without interruption from a strike, and that if a strike did occur it would exacerbate rising prices.

The poll also found that 72% of respondents believe the Presidential Emergency Board’s contract recommendations, which include a 24% compounded raise over the five-year life of the contract, are fair. Some 73% said they believed rail workers should accept the tentative agreements with the Class I railroads.

Congressional leaders have said in recent days that they are closely monitoring the situation. But they have not said what action they might take to prevent or end a strike.

Four unions have rejected their tentative agreements with the railroads that are part of national negotiations, while the other eight unions have ratified their contracts. A strike by just one of the unions would trigger a nationwide walkout or lockout affecting freight railroads, most Amtrak service, and commuter operations in many cities.

The four unions are in a cooling off period that expires on Dec. 9. The two sides are back at the negotiating table.

9 thoughts on “Business leaders urge Congress to prevent national railroad strike

    1. LEST WE FORGET, us guys continued to work without proper protection when the Chinese virus was early on in its most virulent lethal phase. And the class1’s immediately cut the hardest working suckers who lacked seniority for the holy grail operating ratio, and ever increasing freight rates and profit

  1. Turns out the poll was put out by…………………………….any guesses?????????? The AAR, otherwise known as the association of American railroads……. And people cling to this stuff as fact. Yet there’s no mention as to who did the poll in the article. What a joke.

  2. Can Congress require time off for Federally regulated rail employees? Seems if Congress can mandate time off for a variety of issues, like births, adoption, family deaths, etc, Congress can mandate time off for rail employees to go to the doctor. Congress should also consider mandating the same restrictions on rail employees that truck drivers have. 70 hours in 8 days. 11 hour & 14 hour restrictions on the work day. Minimum 10 hours continuous rest periods.

  3. Eric and Troy are right. I retired 7 years ago . I know working conditions have gotten worse from talking to guys I used to work with. The railroads need to learn how to treat their employees. Something they can’t get through their thick heads.

  4. Thank you Eric, you hit the nail on the head. I have no personal skin in this other than as a concerned citizen but in regards to the working conditions I am 100% behind you.

    1. Upvote to Troy and Eric both. Eric thank you for making my life as an American better and more comfortable. Best of luck to you, Eric, in these difficult next few weeks.

  5. They’ll shut the whole country down for those of us that just want days off away from the service of the company once in awhile or far worse having to show up sick or otherwise without fear of getting discipline. That’s the problem with those polls, whoever was polling the population didn’t explain that I’m sure. The regular world hasn’t a clue what we’re fighting for and doesn’t even bother to ask real questions to both sides and it always seems the railroads get to answer the questions to their favor. How hard is it to portray to the masses that all we want is time away, not money which always is the focus in the media I’ve said it a million times on here to listen to us,we aren’t asking for the moon here merely days off without fear of discipline or termination…… the blood ( sort of speak) will be on the hands of the masses who can’t comprehend that as such and are willing to push this railroad sponsored media blitz to the end without hearing the plight of those that are on the other side………..

  6. Everybody is looking for a financial solution to this crisis. Nobody is looking at the REAL issue, which is working conditions that have gotten progressively worse. The can pass any laws or dictates they want to force people back to work, but what are they going to do if the trainmen quit? They are fed up, and forcing a contract that they feel does nothing to improve their situation may cause them to walk away from the job. And the last time I checked, quitting your job isn’t illegal. And if that happened, it would take months if not years for the railroads to hire enough people to get back to normal.

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