WASHINGTON — The possible strike of railroad workers by the end of the week is getting more attention from stakeholders in the meat processing and agricultural sectors of the economy.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division stated that a strike could happen by Sept. 16 if the unions can’t reach a contract agreement.

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee said it reached tentative agreements with a large portion of the unionized workers but still has not come to a new contract with the two largest unions.

Those unions are demanding more conditions in the contract that cover vacation and sick days and attendance policies. 

In July, the Biden Administration appointed the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to help resolve a dispute dating back to January 2020. The board prohibited a strike at the time, but it will expire soon.

On Sept. 12, Union Pacific Railroad and the Association of the American Railroads (AAR) stated it would secure hazardous and other security-sensitive materials on its property if there were service disruptions.

“In addition, we will embargo new shipments of hazardous commodities until those shipments can safely arrive at their destination,” Union Pacific said. “This is a proactive measure we are taking ahead of any potential work stoppages due to an impasse in labor negotiations.”

The US Meat Export Federation explained how a strike could affect the red meat market.

“USMEF was pleased to see that more rail worker unions reached tentative contract agreements over the weekend, but the threat of a strike remains a major concern,” said Joe Schuele, vice president of communications for USMEF. “While the vast majority of red meat exports rely on truck and ocean transport, any interruption in rail service will put a strain on the entire transportation system. And from a meat production standpoint, rail service is obviously critical for delivery of livestock feed and other inputs.”

The National Chicken Council (NCC) also discussed what a railroad strike could mean for its members.

“Our members rely on about 27 million bushels of corn and 11 million bushels of soybean meal every week to feed their chickens. Much of that is moved by rail,” said Tom Super, senior vice president of NCC. “Any disruption of service could negatively impact the welfare of the birds, and ultimately impact production at a time when Americans are already dealing with record food inflation. We are urging a swift resolution to this issue.” 

A recent analysis by AAR showed that a nationwide rail shutdown would cost the US economy $2 billion a day.