INDEPENDENCE, OHIO — On Nov. 20, votes from two of the largest rail unions were cast, resulting in split decisions. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) voted to ratify the agreement. However, members of the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) disagreed on a decision, with yardmasters in favor and operating craft members opposed.
The five-year agreement ratified by BLET members and SMART-TD yardmaster members addresses rates of pay, health & welfare, and other fringe benefits for approximately 24,000 locomotive engineers and other rail workers.
SMART-TD operating craft members will return to negotiations with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC).
“SMART-TD members with their votes have spoken, it’s now back to the bargaining table for our operating craft members,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “This can all be settled through negotiations and without a strike. A settlement would be in the best interests of the workers, the railroads, shippers and the American people.”
He added, “The ball is now in the railroads’ court. Let’s see what they do. They can settle this at the bargaining table. But the railroad executives who constantly complain about government interference and regularly bad-mouth regulators and Congress now want Congress to do the bargaining for them.”
Prior to the SMART-TD craft members’ rejection, three other unions had voted against ratification. The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers’ rejection on Nov. 14 followed the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division (BMWED) and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen’s (BRS) rejections.
“The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, along with several other unions, did not vote in favor of ratifying a contract with the National Carriers Conference Committee and is currently in a ‘cooling off’ period following this decision,” the union said. “The Boilermakers union fully expects to continue negotiating further toward a satisfactory contract in the future with the NCCC.”
Trade associations, such as the National Chicken Council, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the North American Meat Institute, have voiced concerns about the immediacy of resolving the conflict between rail workers and their employers. A rail strike was delayed after the creation of the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) in July, which created a baseline for a deal.
The Association of American Railroads estimated a strike would hit the US economy at a rate of $2 billion per day.
If a strike occurs, the BLET and the eight other rail unions that have ratified agreements have pledged to lawfully honor their picket lines.
“We stood shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in SMART-TD and others in rail labor throughout this process, and we will continue to stand in solidarity with them as we approach the finish line in this round of negotiations,” said Dennis Pierce, BLET president.