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Rail workers’ group calls for Wednesday picketing

By | September 20, 2022

Labor update: Machinists resume negotiations after voting down tentative agreement

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People with picket signs on sidewalk
People with picket signs on sidewalk
Picketers stake out positions outside a Kansas City, Mo., hotel where three Class I railroads spoke to a conference in May. A workers’ group is calling for picketing at railroad terminals on Wednesday. David Lassen

An ad-hoc rail workers’ group is calling for informational picketing on Wednesday to address what it calls “the staffing shortages and lack of a decent quality of life” for employees as railroads, employees, and customers wait to see if unions will ratify tentative agreements that averted a strike last week.

Meanwhile, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 19, which voted down its tentative agreement with railroads last week, said in a Monday letter to members that it is resuming bargaining this week with the railroads’ group, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee.

In that letter, signed by “IAM District 19 Leadership,” the union contends its rejection of an agreement reached earlier “made clear to the NCCC that it had to improve its offer to reach a deal with other unions.” The letter also says the union agreed to an additional cooling off period — until Sept. 29 — to allow it to continue to bargain. “Without an extension, it’s a very real possibility that Congress would have imposed a contract upon us,” the letter says.

The IAM announced it had voted down the tentative agreement on Sept. 14 — the organization Railroad Workers United says it was rejected by a 63%-37% margin — while two other unions announced they had approved agreements that same day [see “Machinists reject tentative contract deal …,” Trains News Wire, Sept. 14, 2022, and “Rail labor roundup …,” News Wire, Sept. 14, 2022]. Nine other unions have yet to vote on tentative agreements, including the three that reached those agreements last Thursday after a 20-hour bargaining session [see “Freight railroad strike averted …,” News Wire, Sept. 15, 2022].

Call for picketing underlines uncertainty over contract ratification

The call for picketing on Wednesday comes from the group “Rail Labor for Coordinated Bargaining in 2025,” which says on its Facebook page that it a rank-and-file organization independent of any specific rail labor union. It is calling Wednesday a “Railroad Worker National Day of Action,” and says workers should picket at their terminals before and after work in what it is calling a “practice picket.” It underlines the uncertainty that remains whether union members, who have been vocal in their unhappiness over working conditions, will ratify the agreements negotiated last week.

Another cross-union workers’ group, Railroad Workers United, said in a press release that it was not a party to the call for picketing but supported the action, with RWU General Secretary Jason Doering saying, “It appears to be part of a spontaneous uprising of working railroaders around the country who wish to voice their discontent with the treatment they received from the Class I rail carriers.” Railroad Workers United says it is planning for possible action as other unions complete voting, with the organization’s co-chairman, Ross Grooters, saying , ““We expect things to come to a head next month, and RWU will no doubt play a role in coordinating and channeling this mass discontent.”

In other labor news, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division will hold a series of online “Town Hall” meetings about its tentative agreement beginning on Wednesday. The meetings will be held on a railroad-by-railroad basis at 7 p.m. CDT, with a session for CSX workers on Wednesday, BNSF on Thursday, Sept. 22, Union Pacific on Monday, Sept. 26, Norfolk Southern on Tuesday, Sept. 27, and all other railroads on Wednesday, Sept. 28. Union president Tony Cardwell and other officials will discuss the agreement and answer questions in the one-hour sessions.

6 thoughts on “Rail workers’ group calls for Wednesday picketing

  1. I don’t have any “skin” in this but, I think it would be mistake not to demand a guaranteed one day off per week. Frankly if they do not I believe they will be stuck with bad working conditions for T&E employees for many years. Current conditions of labor shortage have railroads in a bad position for a strike and labor will not have such a golden opportunity in the future for many years. Loss of revenue should make stockholders press the companies to conclude a contract.

    1. Agreed. The RR’s owe at least one 24 hour day off every week to their employees. Note: WWII was probably the biggest long term emergency the railroads ever faced in the USA. Does anyone know what the time off policy was during it?

  2. “Quality of life” for employees sums the situation up pretty neatly. The labor shortage problem will never go away if the railroads don’t change the way they treat their people. I was struck by the article about CSX offering bonuses for temporary transfers to former NYC territory – they are this close to getting a new contract, and people are so demoralized they’re still leaving in droves. Management better wake up – and the STB and Congress need to disabuse them of the fantasy that one-person crews will solve their labor problems.

  3. People can also be compelled to take jobs they might not like through state Employment/Unemployment departments…that’s probably the direction this country is going to go in…or, we could just teach all these immigrants to read and write English and they’ll be willing to take the work as is with the conditions now from the railroads because the money is 100x what they make in their own countries(why do you think they’re coming here). Then the railroaders will complain about their jobs being taken away…as the old saying goes: you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  4. Gerald: Don’t forget what Charles warned (reference 9-19-22 “As stopgap to relieve crews…….”). His comment seems wise.

    Not to say disparaging remarks to any group, but those active in the skilled trades should have LESS incentive to leave T/E service.
    That would follow with people wanting to have that job. People WANTING to work at an occupation are better than, those who just wanna job. endmrw0920222023

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