Joe Biden’s deal to stave off ‘crippling’ rail strikes could fall apart

Joe Biden’s deal to stave off ‘crippling’ rail strikes could fall apart within DAYS as workers seek concrete agreement on sick leave and days off (despite getting a 24% pay rise and back pay)

  • The ‘tentative’ deal struck Thursday meets the needs of only two of the nation’s twelve union groups
  • If just one of those twelve groups votes to reject the White House-brokered deal, the agreement would collapse and strikes could begin
  • Organizer for Railroad Workers United, Ron Kaminkow, said the average rail worker felt ‘a lot of anger, confusion and hostility’ towards the deal
  • Railroad workers are scheduled to vote on the agreement this Thursday, but vote counting could continue well into October 
  • It has been estimated a railroad strike could cost about $2billion per day in economic by halting the flow of goods, and disrupting passenger rail service

The ‘tentative’ deal President Joe Biden brokered between US freight rail companies and unions in the hopes of avoiding a massive economic disruption is at risk of collapsing, spelling trouble for the embattled president on the eve of the midterm elections.

Though the deal agreed to raise rail employees’ salaries by 24 percent over five years and gave up to $11,000 in bonuses, union leaders said it remains ‘intentionally’ vague about sick leave and other days off. 

Organizer for Railroad Workers United, Ron Kaminkow, said the average rail worker felt ‘a lot of anger, confusion and hostility’ towards the deal. 

The average rail worker put it more bluntly: ‘Workers are pissed off and this time we actually have a lot of leverage,’ said one locomotive engineer, according to The Hill, ‘I know I’m not going to accept anything less than what we deserve.’

Rail workers are scheduled to vote on the deal this Thursday, but if just one of the 12 railroad unions votes against the deal thousands of workers could go on strike and bring commerce to a halt across North America.

Last week’s deal only addressed terms put forth by the industry’s two largest union groups – the Brotherhood Of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and SMART – and did not meet all of the demands made of other groups.

One of those unrepresented groups is the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, of which 5,000 members voted against another White House proposed deal last month.

The 'tentative' deal President Joe Biden brokered between US freight rail companies and unions in the hopes of avoiding a massive economic disruption is at risk of collapsing, spelling trouble for the embattled president on the eve of the midterm elections

The ‘tentative’ deal President Joe Biden brokered between US freight rail companies and unions in the hopes of avoiding a massive economic disruption is at risk of collapsing, spelling trouble for the embattled president on the eve of the midterm elections

Organizer for Railroad Workers United, Ron Kaminkow, said the average rail worker felt 'a lot of anger, confusion and hostility' towards the deal

Organizer for Railroad Workers United, Ron Kaminkow, said the average rail worker felt ‘a lot of anger, confusion and hostility’ towards the deal 

Vote counting will last until mid-October, creating a recipe for disaster for Democrats should workers vote against the deal and begin striking.

It has been estimated a railroad strike could cost about $2billion per day in economic by halting the flow of goods, and disrupting passenger rail service, which typically utilizes freight lines.

Professor of labor and employment relations at the University of Illinois, Robert Bruno, said he thought the vote would pass, but many workers would remain unsatisfied.

‘I would be surprised if the bargaining committee misread what the rank and file would support. That doesn’t mean that it will pass with supermajorities,’ he said. ‘That will signal a level of continuing grievance on the part of the membership. It wouldn’t surprise me if a fairly substantial number of members voted ‘no’ in part because of how genuinely abused they feel.’

In the first half of 2022, there have been 180 strikes involving 78,000 workers, about triple the amount in the same time last year

In the first half of 2022, there have been 180 strikes involving 78,000 workers, about triple the amount in the same time last year

In 2021, the US saw a total of 265 strikes, with about 62,000 workers involved

In 2021, the US saw a total of 265 strikes, with about 62,000 workers involved 

No matter what happens with the railroad vote, many experts have argued Biden’s deal will only serve to embolden unions in the future, at a time when workers’ strikes have tripled 

‘This is a very, very contentious time,’ Michael Lotito, co-chairman of the Workplace Policy Institute at Littler, told the Wall Street Journal. ‘I think that is going to embolden unions to ask for more.’

The prediction comes as Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations (ILR) reported that the number of strikers in the US has tripled to 78,000 in the first-half of 2022 compared to the same period last year. 

According to the ILR, there were roughly 180 strikes in the first-half of 2022 compared to 102 in the same time last year, which saw only 26,500 workers join stoppages.

By the end of 2021, the US saw a total of 265 strikes, with about 62,000 workers involved.    

So far this year, there have been a total of 271 strikes, with a majority taking place in California, Washington and Pennsylvania. 

Experts have cited the pandemic as the primary cause of the rampant strikes. 

Lotito told the WSJ that two years of COVID made the jobs of many harder and more dangerous, leaving many to feel that they don’t get the pay and respect they deserve from their employers. 

The average annual salary for locomotive engineers is currently about $73,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

The average annual salary for locomotive engineers is currently about $73,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

On Thursday, Biden called his deal ‘a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that America’s families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years.’

As negotiations between the rail companies and the unions came down to the wire, the White House and Biden’s Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh had stepped in to help broker an agreement.

The tentative agreement was reached with multiple unions that represent about 60,000 employees of the nation’s private freight railroad companies, meaning the $11,000 lump sum bonus payment alone will cost the companies some $660 million. 

The average annual salary for locomotive engineers is currently about $73,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other vital rail workers covered by the deal include signalmen and various other jobs. 

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