Rail Union Negotiations Back Off Track

Oct 14, 2022

All aboard the strike express! And then back off it. And then… back on?

We choo-choo-choose no: A few weeks ago, a strike by railroad workers seemed imminent—until a tentative agreement was reached in the 11th hour (technically, the 21st hour—after a 20-hour negotiation marathon).

But now, a threatened strike is back on the table, after the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters voted against the proposed contract. (All 12 railroad unions have to ratify their contracts to prevent a strike.)

RailroadedThe number one concern workers say wasn’t properly addressed in that tentative contract from September? Paid sick time. They also want to see better working conditions (like not being on call seven days a week).

Soundbite: “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.” – Tony D. Cardwell, union president

What this means for ag: Nothing good! A potential strike would inject more chaos into an already-stretched (and expensive) supply chain. Plus, it would cause more backlog at grain processing facilities—potentially even forcing shutdowns.

How to get back on track: The union will start bargaining again with Class I freight carriers, in what’s called a “status quo” period. That period will stretch to mid-November, at which point there would either be a strike on Nov. 19, or a new deal—so here’s hoping we get a final resolution somewhere down the line.