NCC joined over 320 local, state, and federal trade associations in urging the Biden administration to continue working with a collection of railroad unions and the railroad operators on an agreement to prevent a possible strike.

“With your help, from establishing the Presidential Emergency Board to involvement in the direct negotiations among the parties, the tentative agreement was reached on September 15,” the letter to President Biden said. “We have seen six of the twelve unions ratify the agreement to date. Unfortunately, we have seen two unions reject the agreement and there are concerns that others may follow. If that were to be the case, we could witness a strike that would shut down the entire freight rail system. 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. 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,” the letter concluded. “Your involvement can only help make that happen and ensure there is no interruption to rail service.”

The full letter can be found here.

In mid-September, major U.S. freight rail operators and the unions representing over one hundred thousand rail workers reached a tentative deal to avoid a strike.

The tentative agreement, reached between 12 unions representing workers across the rail industry and the Class I freight rail operators, included a 24 percent wage increase during a five-year period from 2020 through 2024, including an immediate payout to rail employees on average of $11,000 once the deal is ratified.

The agreement also included an extension to existing employee health care networks, the creation of voluntary assigned days off for employees in thru freight service, an additional paid day off for every employee represented by the unions, and exemptions to carrier attendance policies for routine and preventive medical care.

More information regarding terms of the deal can be found here.

“Our members rely on about 27 million bushels of corn and 11 million bushels of soybean meal every week to feed their chickens. Much of that is moved by rail,” NCC President Mike Brown said of the tentative agreement. “Any disruption of service could negatively impact the welfare of the birds, and ultimately impact production at a time when Americans are already dealing with record food inflation. We are pleased to see a tentative deal has been reached and look forward to its swift approval.”

Since announcement of the tentative agreement, six of the 12 unions ratified the agreement, but the effort at preventing a strike saw a setback when the Brotherhood of Maintenance Way Employes Division (BMWED) members voted against the agreement.

For now, BMWED has agreed to not strike before Nov. 19th and the carriers are trying to get BMWED to move the strike date to Dec. 8th to align with the last of the other unions that could strike if they don’t ratify. Another vote by BMWED will be needed. It will take all 12 unions to ratify to prevent a strike.

Other unions have ratification votes scheduled throughout the month of November, including the two principal unions that renegotiated the agreement last month – the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), a division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD).

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents most Class I rail operators including BNSF, Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, CSX, Kansas City Southern, and the U.S. operations of Canadian National, are leading negotiations on behalf of the railroad operators.