GAINESVILLE, Ga. — The Brotherhood of Maintenance union has rejected the Biden administration’s railroad worker deal for better hours and raises, Reuters and One America News has reported. ABCchicago7 added that there are a total of 23,000 members and only 12,000 took part in the vote, with 43 percent of members voting for the deal and 57 percent voted against the deal.
The union is the third largest out of all the freight railroad unions. The union stated the 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.”
BEWE will start negotiations with the organization the represents management and will attempt to strike a new deal. If no new deal is made, a strike could be possible. Everything remains status quo with the existing contract.
President Tony D. Cardwell said, “the majority of the BMWED membership rejected the tentative national agreement and we recognize and understand that result. I trust that railroad management understands that sentiment as well. Railroaders are discouraged and upset with working conditions and compensation and hold their employer in low regard. Railroaders do not feel valued. He went on to say, 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.”
“The membership voted in record numbers on this tentative agreement, exhibiting that they are paying close attention and are engaged in the process,” Cardwell said. “BMWED members are concerned with the direction of their employers and the mismanagement and greed in which they have consistently implemented and are united in their resolve to improve their working conditions across the entire Class I rail network.”
USA Today has reported the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, Transportation or SMART Union houses the conductors. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen houses the engineers of the railroads. Both of these unions contain 55,000 conductors and engineers and they are performing their own confirmation vote by mail. The SMART Union should have the findings of the confirmation vote sometime in November according to President Jeremy Ferguson.
“The SMART Transportation Division is at the stage of distributing information for all of our TD freight members in national handling to fully consider the agreement,” Ferguson said. “Ultimately, it will be up to the thousands of SMART-TD freight rail members to decide whether they accept this agreement.”
A source from one of the two unions said it’s a toss-up for what an outcome may look like for the unions. BEWE could be the determining factor whether a strike follows over the holiday season. Both unions, SMART and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen could vote in favor, but even if they do a strike is still possible. If BEWE denies the proposed contract, the other two unions will not go to work. Since BEWE rejected the last proposal, the other two unions will likely follow suit. All the unions wanted improvements in working conditions and raises. Workers for the unions also didn’t want to be reprimanded for taking medical leaves or taking time off for family emergency.
There is a total of 115,000 employees in all 12 unions. All 12 unions must vote in favor of the new contract to avoid a strike. Only four of the 12 unions agreed to the new contract.
White House Deputy Press Secretary Robyn Patterson said “the president remains focused on avoiding a rail shutdown, and both sides have said they share that desire. We stand ready to support the parties in their efforts and continue to urge both sides to finish their work and avoid even the threat of a shutdown in the future.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the cooling off period until November will be enough time to avoid a strike. She said because one union rejected the Biden Administration’s new contract “does mean we face an immediate rail shutdown.” However, there much work to be done with union and rail companies.”
Jean-Pierre added that it’s “not surprising” that the proposal would face an uphill battle and the White House stands “ready to assist at any time. These negotiations have gone on for years. This is nothing new. We’ve seen this before.”
Previously this year, workers had threatened to strike after negotiations failed during the course of three years.
The railroads carry 30 percent of the United States’ freight when determined by weight and distance journeyed. A strike would strain an already existing supply chain crisis, and it would make prices in the grocery store go even higher. It would make factories close down because they don’t have the necessary parts to function. It would also store shelves bare. If a strike were to take place, it will make the holiday season very difficult for Americans.
“A national rail strike would be an economic disaster — freezing the flow of goods, emptying shelves, shuttering workplaces, and raising prices for families and businesses alike,” Suzanne Clark, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a September statement.
All votes will be counted on Nov 19.