Tentative labor deal averts threat of nationwide rail strike (2023)

A tentative deal has been reached with union freight train workers and management. (CNN, POOL, Port of Los Angeles)

By The Associated Press

Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 5:26 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2022 at 6:18 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rail companies and their workers reached a tentative agreement Thursday to avert a nationwide strike that could have shut down the nation’s freight trains and devastated the economy less than two months before themidterm elections.

(Video) Tentative labor deal averts threat of nationwide rail strike

President Joe Biden announced the deal, which emerged from a marathon 20-hour negotiating session at the Labor Department and came just one day before the threatened walkout.

“This agreement is validation of what I’ve always believed — unions and management can work together ... for the benefit of everyone,” Biden said at the White House.

The deal,which includes a 24% pay raise, will go to union members for a vote after a cooling-off period of several weeks.

President Joe Biden lauded the negotiations that brought forth a tentative labor agreement Thursday in remarks from the White House. (Source: CNN/Pool)

The threat of a shutdown carried political risks for Biden, a Democrat who believes unions built the middle class. But he also knew a rail strike could pose grave economic risks ahead of the midterms, when majorities in both chambers of Congress, key governorships and scores of important state offices will be up for grabs.

Biden made a key phone call Wednesday evening to Labor SecretaryMarty Walshas negotiators were talking and being offered Italian food for dinner, according to White House officials who insisted on anonymity to discuss the conversations.

On speakerphone, the president urged both sides to get a deal done and to consider the harm that a shutdown would inflict on families, farmers and businesses,the officials said.

One union had to wake up its board to move forward on the agreement, which involved 50 calls from White House officials to organized labor officials.

Joined in the Oval Office by business and union leaders, a beaming Biden joked that he was surprised everyone was “still standing” after the late night and that they should be “home in bed.”

(Video) Railroad strike averted: President Biden says tentative railway labor agreement reached

A strike would also havedisrupted passenger trafficas well as freight, because Amtrak and many commuter railroads operate on tracks owned by the freight railroads. Amtrak canceled all of its long-distance trains ahead of the strike deadline and was working to restore full service.

The five-year deal, retroactive to 2020, also includes $5,000 in bonuses. The railroads agreed to ease their strict attendance policies to address union concerns about working conditions.

Railroad workers will now be able to take unpaid days off for doctor’s appointments without being penalized, and they won’t be penalized if they are hospitalized. Previously, workers would lose points under the attendance systems at BNSF and Union Pacific railways, and they could be disciplined if they lost all their points.

The talks also included Norfolk Southern, CSX, Kansas City Southern and the U.S. operations of Canadian National.

The unions that represent conductors and engineers who drive the trains pressed hard for changes in the attendance rules, and they said the deal sets a precedent that ensures they will be able to negotiate such rules in the future.

Kelly Pettus, who is married to an engineer in Atlanta, said she wanted more details about the attendance policy.

Earlier this year, her husband had to leave work when their 2-year-old daughter ended up in the emergency room with the flu. He spent the entire time worrying about the penalty involved in taking a single day off.

“You can’t just call and say your baby is in hospital,” Pettus said.

Hugh Sawyer, an engineer in the Atlanta area, said the pay raise was long overdue and did not completely make up for the regular cost-of-living increases that he lost several years ago.

“It’s something to build on,” Sawyer said of the deal.

The president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Dennis Pierce, predicted that workers will ultimately support the deal if they look logically at all the gains, including the fact that the unions again fought off proposals to cut locomotive crews down from two people to one.

(Video) Biden says tentative railway labor agreement reached, averting strike

But if workers vote angry, the outcome is harder to predict.

“I think it is going to dramatically change the way these jobs look,” he said.

Victor Chen, a sociologist at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies labor, said concerns about working conditions have increasingly become a priority for unions and their workers.

“At a certain point, good wages just aren’t enough to make up for the toll these sorts of working conditions impose on workers,” Chen said. “The companies need to treat workers like human beings, rather than just inputs in a business process.”

The railroad unions pointed to workload and attendance rules after the major railroads cut nearly one-third of their workforce — some 45,000 jobs — over the past six years.

The rail industry has aggressively cut costs everywhere and shifted its operations to rely more on fewer, longer trains that use fewer locomotives and fewer employees. The unions said the remaining workers, particularly engineers and conductors, were on call 24-7 because of jobs cuts and could hardly take any time off under strict attendance rules.

Unions had an advantage at the bargaining table because of the tight labor market and ongoing service problems on the railroads, Chen said.

Shippers have complained loudly this year aboutdelays and poor serviceas railroads struggled to hire quickly enough to handle a surge in demand as the economy emerged from the pandemic. The shipping problems gave rail workers extra leverage.

Newly hired CSX CEO Joe Hinrichs said he hopes the new deal helps the railroad hire and retain more employees to address the service problems.

“Now we can move our conversation into how do we work together to grow the business and better serve our customers,” he said.

Union activism has surged under Biden, as seen in a 56% increase in petitions for union representation with the National Labor Relations Board so far this fiscal year, including prominent organizing efforts at Starbucks, Amazon and other companies.

(Video) Biden announces "tentative agreement" to avert national rail strike

Before the deal was reached, business groups including the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce predicted that a rail strike would be an“economic disaster.”

The Association of American Railroads trade group estimated that a strike would cost the economy more than$2 billion a dayand force many businesses to scale back or cease production and consider layoffs.

With the economy still recovering from the pandemic’ssupply chain disruptions, the president’s goal was to keep all parties talking so a deal could be reached.

Biden also knew a stoppage could worsen the dynamics that fueled soaring inflation and created a political headache for the party in power.

He confronted the same kind of predicament faced by Theodore Roosevelt in 1902 with coal and Harry Truman in 1952 with steel — how does a president balance the needs of labor and business in doing what’s best for the nation?

Railways were so important during World War I that Woodrow Wilson temporarily nationalized the industry to keep goods flowing and prevent strikes.

So the administration jumped into the middle of the talks. Biden and cabinet officials called both sides, and the labor secretary participated directly in negotiations.

It was clear the effort had paid off when Biden announced the deal, calling it “an important win for our economy and the American people.”

___

Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska. Associated Press Writer Alexandra Olson in New York City contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

(Video) Rail workers reach tentative agreement to avert strike, President Joe Biden says

FAQs

What were the major causes of the 1877 strike Why did it spread from being a railroad work stoppage to a major uprising in cities throughout the United States? ›

That year the country was in the fourth year of a prolonged economic depression after the panic of 1873. The strikes were precipitated by wage cuts announced by the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad—its second cut in eight months. Railway work was already poorly paid and dangerous.

Why did workers strike in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877? ›

It was in this desperate climate that on July 16, 1877, workers of the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad station in Martinsburg, West Virginia went on strike to protest the railroad's pay cuts.

Was the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 successful? ›

By the end of August 1877, the strike had ended primarily due to federal government intervention, the use of state militias, and the employment of strikebreakers by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company. The Great Railroad Strike was typical of most strikes during this era.

How was the railroad strike of 1877 resolved? ›

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877l, which originated in West Virginia but spread to other states, ended after President Rutherford Hayes deployed U.S. troops. The troops suppressed the strikes until they eventually ended the strikes altogether.

What impact did the great railroad strike have on the labor movement? ›

It spread across the nation halting rail traffic and closing factories in reaction to widespread worker discontent over wage cuts and conditions during a national depression. Broken by Federal troops in early August, the strike energized the labor movement and was precursor to labor unrest in the 1880s and 1890s.

What labor union was involved in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877? ›

From this point tensions escalated quickly. In Martinsburg, West Virginia, situated roughly 90 miles from Baltimore, B&O workers (most belonging to the local Trainmen's Union) went on strike during the evening of July 16th, declaring freight trains would not move until the railroad restored the 10% wage cut.

Why are rail workers striking? ›

US freight railroad workers are close to striking over claims that grueling schedules and poor working conditions have been driving employees out of the industry over the past several years.

How did the government react to the disgruntled railroad employees in 1877? ›

According to the chart, the government reacted to disgruntled railroad employees in 1877 by? Calling out troops to restore order.

What was the largest strike in US history? ›

1998 The longest successful strike in the history of the United States, the Frontier Strike, ends after 6 years, 4 months and 10 days.

What finally brought the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 to an end? ›

What finally brought the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 to an end? President Rutherford B. Hayes called out the army, which broke the strike and maintained peace along the lines.

When was the last railroad strike in the United States? ›

When was the last rail strike in the U. S.? The last industry strike took place in 1992, when railroad workers with the International Association of Machinists walked off the job. In response, most of the country's freight railroads shut down, forcing Congress to pass legislation imposing a new contract on workers.

Who started the great railroad strike? ›

The spark came when John W. Garrett, president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, signed off on a 10 percent wage cut. It knocked a brakeman's daily wage to $1.35 and was the second such cut in a year. It also came as Americans were still struggling after the Panic of 1873, one of the worst economic skids ever seen.

How much would a railroad strike cost? ›

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce—with some alarmism, perhaps—says a rail strike would cost the economy $2 billion a day. The importance of freight transportation varies by industry.

Which lists the events surrounding the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 in the correct order Brainly? ›

Which lists the events surrounding the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 in the correct order? Banks collapsed; railroads rejected workers' demands; trade and business came to a halt; the strike became increasingly violent for 45 days.

Can railroad workers strike? ›

When can workers strike? By federal law, the unions can't legally strike until after Friday morning, just after midnight. That's when a 30-day "cooling-off" period ends, under terms of a law called the Railway Labor Act, which governs contract talks in the railroad and airline industries.

What date is the rail strike 2022? ›

25 October 2022

Rail union RMT will take strike action on 5, 7 and 9 of November in a dispute over jobs, conditions and pay. Network Rail members will be on strike on those days and members working for the train operating companies will take action on 5th of November.

Is rail strike still on? ›

One upcoming rail strike has been announced. Train operators will be impacted on Thursday 3rd, Saturday 5th and Sunday 7th November 2022.

What was the government's opinion on strikes and labor unions in the late 1800's? ›

Governments at every level opposed strikes, and often, local police, the state militia, and federal troops were called in to end labor unrest. This did not mean, however, that elected officials were unsympathetic to workers' aspirations.

Why were so many workers and people in the community angry with the railroad corporations in the 1870s? ›

That year, mired in the stagnant economy that followed the bursting of the railroads' financial bubble in 1873, rail lines slashed workers' wages (even, workers complained, as they reaped enormous government subsidies and paid shareholders lucrative stock dividends).

What have rail workers been offered? ›

All union members were being offered more than 5%, and the lowest paid would be getting a more than 10% pay rise, a spokesman told the BBC. In addition, there would be no compulsory redundancies for two years, which unions had been calling for, and employees and their immediate families would get 75% off rail travel.

How many workers went on strike during the Pullman strike? ›

Responding to layoffs, wage cuts, and firings, workers at Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike, and, eventually, some 125,000–250,000 railroad workers in 27 states joined their cause, stifling the national rail network west of Chicago.

What do the rail unions want? ›

The railroad unions are asking freight and railway companies for a pay increase, as well as better working conditions, including paid time off and a more flexible schedule.

Which rail companies are going on strike? ›

The train operators are: Chiltern Railways, Cross Country Trains, Greater Anglia, LNER, East Midlands Railway, c2c, Great Western Railway, Northern Trains, South Eastern South Western Railway Transpennine Express, Avanti West Coast, West Midlands Trains and GTR (including Gatwick Express).

Did the workers win the strike or were they forced to go back to work? ›

Some workers did win a repeal of the onerous wage cuts that had triggered the strike in the first place, but most employees were forced to return to work without a pay increase. Individuals singled out as strike leaders often found themselves fired and blacklisted for their participation in the uprising.

What was the name of the railroad car company against which workers struck in 1894? ›

In 1894, workers struck George Pullman's paternalistic railroad sleeping car manufacturing company and the Pullman Company refused to negotiate with the ARU.

When a union called a strike employers would often hire replacements called? ›

Ch5 Adv Industrialization
AB
When a union called a strike, employers would often hire replacements, calledstrikebreakers.
Employers generally viewed unions asconspiracies that interfered with property rights.
Some labor supporters were anarchists, who believed that society did not need anygovernment.
30 more rows

What was the outcome of Pullman Strike? ›

Federal troops were recalled from Chicago on July 20, and the Pullman strike was declared over in early August. Debs, arrested at the height of the violence along with several other ARU leaders, was charged with violating the injunction and served six months in jail.

Which country has most strike? ›

Labor > Strikes: Countries Compared
#COUNTRYAMOUNT
1Denmark296
2Iceland244
3Canada217
4Spain189
24 more rows

How long do labor strikes usually last? ›

Work stoppages lasted an average of 41.1 days over the past decade, according to Bloomberg Law data.

How long does the average union strike last? ›

Economic strikers can be permanently replaced and, if this occurs, unions are legally allowed to accept contract representing the permanent replacement workers. According to strike records, the average strike length of most major unions is more than 30 days.

How did the Knights of labor change as a result of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 quizlet? ›

How did the Knights of Labor change as a result of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877? The Knights dropped their mantle of secrecy and began openly recruiting any and all workers.

Was the great railroad strike during the Gilded Age? ›

In 1877 many of the tensions underlying American economic and political development in the Gilded Age came to a head.

Why is the railroad going on strike 2022? ›

Why are rail workers striking? Earlier this year, railroad workers threatened to strike after more than three years of contract negotiations failed. The unions pushed for a pay increase and better working conditions.

What would happen if railroad strike? ›

A railroad strike would cause shortages, shutdowns, and high prices. It'd also cost the US economy $2B per day. About 40% of long-distance shipping in the US is by train. Which is why a railroad strike that could begin as soon as Friday could have serious consequences across the country.

What would happen if the railroads went on strike? ›

The Association of American Railroads trade group estimates that a strike would cost the economy $2 billion a day. About 300,000 barrels of crude oil is shipped by rail every day, and refineries might have to slow production if deliveries are delayed, according to the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.

How long did the last railroad strike last? ›

This strike finally ended some 69 days later, after it was put down by unofficial militias, the National Guard, and federal troops.
...
Great Railroad Strike of 1877
Blockade of engines at Martinsburg, West Virginia, 16 July 1877
DateJuly 14 – September 4, 1877
GoalsWage increases
MethodsStrikes, Protest, Demonstrations
4 more rows

How many died in Great railroad strike? ›

More than 100,000 workers participated in the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, at the height of which more than half the freight on the country's tracks had come to a halt. By the time the strikes were over, about 1,000 people had gone to jail and some 100 had been killed.

Why is the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 important? ›

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was the country's first major rail strike and witnessed the first general strike in the nation's history. The strikes and the violence it spawned briefly paralyzed the country's commerce and led governors in ten states to mobilize 60,000 militia members to reopen rail traffic.

Why are rail strikes happening? ›

Why did railway workers go on strike? The unions are in dispute with the government and rail companies about pay, job cuts and changes to terms and conditions.

Why are the rail workers striking? ›

Rail strike 2022 – why is it happening? The railway staff unions have an ongoing dispute with Network Rail and the government over: salaries for train drivers. pay rises that reflect the cost of living.

Is Amtrak affected by rail strike? ›

Yes, rail service not provided by Amtrak could be affected by a freight rail strike. Many passenger rail services operate on tracks owned by freight railroads, including Metra in Chicago and Maryland Transit Administration's MARC trains.

How was the railroad strike of 1877 resolved? ›

Governor Young quickly dispatched militia forces to the city, hoping to avoid violence. By the end of August 1877, the strike had ended primarily due to federal government intervention, the use of state militias, and the employment of strikebreakers by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company.

What was the outcome of the railroad strike of 1877? ›

What was the end result of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877? The result of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was that labor unions were able to gain more power and federal support. In addition, working conditions were able to improve with changes enforced by labor unions.

What was the largest strike in US history? ›

1998 The longest successful strike in the history of the United States, the Frontier Strike, ends after 6 years, 4 months and 10 days.

What does the Railway Labor Act do? ›

The RLA imposes a duty on carriers and employees to exert every reasonable effort to make and maintain collective bargaining agreements, and to settle all disputes, whether arising out of the application of such agreements or otherwise.

How does the Railway Labor Act affect unions ability to strike? ›

The Railway Labor Act allows Congress to keep workers on the job in case of a strike or a lockout of workers by management. Unions say a shortage of workers has meant their members need to be on call to report to work on short notice seven days a week, even on the days they're not scheduled to work.

What is the railroad Act? ›

The Pacific Railway Act, which became law on July 1, 1862, offered government incentives to assist “men of talent, men of character, men who are willing to invest” in developing the nation's first transcontinental rail line.

Why are railroad workers striking? ›

US freight railroad workers are close to striking over claims that grueling schedules and poor working conditions have been driving employees out of the industry over the past several years.

Who started the Great Railroad Strike of 1877? ›

The spark came when John W. Garrett, president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, signed off on a 10 percent wage cut. It knocked a brakeman's daily wage to $1.35 and was the second such cut in a year.

Which lists the events surrounding the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 in the correct order Brainly? ›

Which lists the events surrounding the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 in the correct order? Banks collapsed; railroads rejected workers' demands; trade and business came to a halt; the strike became increasingly violent for 45 days.

Why were so many workers and people in the community angry with the railroad corporations in the 1870s? ›

That year, mired in the stagnant economy that followed the bursting of the railroads' financial bubble in 1873, rail lines slashed workers' wages (even, workers complained, as they reaped enormous government subsidies and paid shareholders lucrative stock dividends).

Why are train drivers striking 2022? ›

Rail strike 2022 – why is it happening? The railway staff unions have an ongoing dispute with Network Rail and the government over: salaries for train drivers. pay rises that reflect the cost of living.

What are the railroad unions asking for? ›

What are the railroad unions asking for? The railroad unions are asking freight and railway companies for a pay increase, as well as better working conditions, including paid time off and a more flexible schedule.

What did the rail workers get? ›

Railroad workers secured a deal that will deliver 24% raises and $5,000 bonuses over five years, but it will also address some of their concerns about strict attendance rules and time off.

What was the largest strike in US history? ›

1998 The longest successful strike in the history of the United States, the Frontier Strike, ends after 6 years, 4 months and 10 days.

When was the last railroad strike in the United States? ›

When was the last rail strike in the U. S.? The last industry strike took place in 1992, when railroad workers with the International Association of Machinists walked off the job. In response, most of the country's freight railroads shut down, forcing Congress to pass legislation imposing a new contract on workers.

How much would a railroad strike cost? ›

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce—with some alarmism, perhaps—says a rail strike would cost the economy $2 billion a day. The importance of freight transportation varies by industry.

What management strategy was used to supress the Homestead strike? ›

What company management strategy was used to suppress the Homestead Strike? Company management made the employees sign yellow-dog contracts.

What was the government's opinion on strikes and labor unions in the late 1800's? ›

Governments at every level opposed strikes, and often, local police, the state militia, and federal troops were called in to end labor unrest. This did not mean, however, that elected officials were unsympathetic to workers' aspirations.

What was the result of the Pullman strike is the worker describing? ›

The Pullman strike helped unions gain national support and led to legal protections for unions. The Pullman Company averted bankruptcy by refusing to give in to the demands of workers. The Pullman Company lost more money fighting the strike than it would have paid out by giving in to workers.

What is it called when workers refuse to work? ›

Strike action, also called labor strike, labour strike, or simply strike, is a work stoppage, caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became common during the Industrial Revolution, when mass labor became important in factories and mines.

What problems did railroad workers face? ›

They were tight quarters in which conditions could be squalid. Also troubling were fears of the Native Americans across whose land the laborers built their road. There were Native American snipers, raids, livestock rustlings, scalpings, and burnings all along the railroad right of way.

How much did Chinese railroad workers get paid? ›

According to the Project, Chinese workers hired in 1864 were paid $26 a month, working six days a week.

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