Railroad unions in process of ratifying labor deal
Railway unions reached a tentative agreement with Class I freight railroad companies the night of Sept. 17 to prevent a nationwide strike set to begin the next day. Now the 12 unions that collectively represent the 115,000 railway employees involved are in the process of deciding if they will ratify the agreement that would give workers a 24% pay increase for the period 2020-2024 with a 14.1% wage increase effective immediately and five annual $1,000 lump sum payments.
As of Oct. 12, five of the 12 railroad unions had ratified the agreement – Transportation Communications International Union, Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, Railroad Electrical Workers Branch of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and American Train Dispatchers Association.
On Oct. 10, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (BMWED) members voted against ratifying the September agreement. The BMWED, which represents track workers, said the reason it rejected the September agreement was because the agreement does not address a lack of paid time off, particularly sick time, and working conditions. The BMWED has agreed to delay striking until five days after Congress reconvenes in November. Congress is expected to reconvene Nov. 14.
The other seven unions have set dates for their members to vote on the proposed agreement between Oct. 13 (National Conference of Firemen & Oilers) and no later than Nov. 20(IAM). The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen will vote by Oct. 26; International Brotherhood of Boilermakers by Nov. 11; Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen and Sheet Metal Air Rail Transportation - Transportation Division, both by Nov. 17. All 12 railway unions must ratify their contracts to prevent a nationwide strike.
According to the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC), which represents all the unions, the wage increases in the tentative new agreement are the most substantial in decades – with average rail worker wages reaching about $110,000 per year by the end of the agreement. When health care, retirement, and other benefits are considered, the value of rail employees’ total compensation package would average about $160,000 per year, the NRLC reports on its website.
A portion of the wage increases and lump sum payments are retroactive. On average employees would receive $11,000 in immediate payouts, according to the NRLC.
If the tentative agreement between the railway unions and companies is not ratified by the unions, the NRLC reports that the parties have agreed to maintain the status quo for a period of time pending further discussions and assessment of next steps so that a failed ratification does not present risk of an immediate service disruption.