NOVI, MICH. — A major US railroad union rejected a deal from its employers, renewing concerns for the US economy.

The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) released its members’ verdict on Oct. 10. Out of 11,845 votes, 56% were not in support of the railway’s offer, which included 24% raises and $5,000 bonuses as part of a five-year contract.

“Railroaders are discouraged and upset with working conditions and compensation and hold their employer in low regard,” said BMWED President Tony D. Cardwell. “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.”

President Joe Biden has intervened to help the major railroads and their unions reach a resolution to avoid an economic fallout. The Association of American Railroads (AAR) estimated that the US economy would take a $2 billion-a-day hit if trains stopped moving. 

In July 2022, Biden created a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), which suggested a baseline agreement for the disputing parties.

Now that BMWED has rejected the railroad’s initial deal, the union has entered into a status quo period. It will consider new offers after Congress reconvenes on Nov. 14 and will hold off on a strike until at least five days after Congress meets to allow time for negotiations.