NOVI, Mich. – Members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees union have rejected the tentative national agreement that was reached last month with the U.S. Class I railroads.
Some 56% of the rank and file voted against the contract, the union announced on Monday. Union leaders and the National Carriers Conference Committee that represents the railroads will go back to the bargaining table with the clock ticking toward a Nov. 19 deadline.
“The majority of the BMWED membership rejected the tentative national agreement and we recognize and understand that result,” President Tony D. Cardwell said in a statement. “I trust that railroad management understands that sentiment as well. Railroaders are discouraged and upset with working conditions and compensation and hold their employer in low regard. Railroaders do not feel valued. They resent the fact that management holds no regard for their quality of life, illustrated by their stubborn reluctance to provide a higher quantity of paid time off, especially for sickness. The result of this vote indicates that there is a lot of work to do to establish goodwill and improve the morale that has been broken by the railroads’ executives and Wall Street hedge fund managers.”
Some 11,845 BMWED members submitted ballots, with 6,646 against ratification and 5,100 approving the tentative agreement. Ninety-nine remaining ballots were submitted blank or voided for some other user error.
The tentative agreement offered 24% wage increases over the life of the five-year contract, retroactive to 2020. It also called for improvements to travel allowances for maintenance of way employees.
“The membership voted in record numbers on this tentative agreement, exhibiting that they are paying close attention and are engaged in the process,” Cardwell said. “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.”
The rejection of the tentative agreement results in a “status quo” period where the BMWED will re-engage bargaining with the Class I freight railroads. That status quo period will extend to five days after Congress reconvenes, which is currently set for Nov. 14. Assuming Congress returns to session on the 14th there could be no “self help” until after Nov. 19, the union said.
Four unions have ratified their agreements with the railroads, while seven others are voting or preparing to vote.