Trade associations send letter to White House on possible railway strike

A railway strike would not bode well for the United States. With negotiations for labor agreements between freight railways and two large union groups not going well, over 300 U.S. trade associations have begun urging President Joe Biden and his administration to aid in finding an agreement, as reported by Freightwaves.

A railway strike, that would by default create a railway shutdown, “would have a significant impact on the U.S. economy and lead to further inflationary pressure,” the trade groups wrote in a letter addressed to Biden on Oct. 27.

The Oct. 27 letter explicitly requested the White House to be involved with labor agreement negotiations. Six unions have successfully reached agreements with the railways; the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS) have rejected agreements and thus, are able to strike.

The trade groups who have reached out to Biden are concerned with the possibility of other unions, specifically the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers Transportation Division (SMART-TD), rejecting their tentative agreements. These are two of the largest unions and their responses to the agreements are expected on Nov. 21.

“We have seen two unions reject the agreement, and there are concerns that others may follow,” the trade group’s letter said. “If that were to be the case, we could witness a strike that would shut down the entire freight rail system.”

Over the summer, the Biden administration first began to aid the unions and railways in reaching satisfactory agreements. Biden created the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), and appointed labor relations experts to resolve the labor issues and, maybe most importantly, avoid a strike.

“Because the White House played such a central role in the process, we believe it can be helpful in continuing to move the process forward in a positive direction,” the letter said. “Otherwise, Congress will be called upon to act. We continue to urge that the contracts be ratified to provide stability and predictability to the system. Your involvement can only help make that happen and ensure there is no interruption to rail service.”