After a marathon all-night negotiation, the railroads and labor unions have reached a tentative deal, averting a nationwide strike that threatened to cripple U.S. supply chains – less than 24 hours before the deadline.
The agreement with the BLET and SMART unions, representing 90,000 engineers and conductors, was announced at 5 a.m. this morning after 20 hours of intense negotiations.
The deal gives the union members an immediate raise with back pay dating to 2020, along with yearly raises and bonuses throughout the five-year life of the contract. The deal also provides one additional paid day off a year and provides protections against discipline for taking time off for medical appointments. While few other details have been released, a statement from the White House indicated that the major sticking point – involving working conditions and scheduling issues – have been addressed in the unions’ favor.
“Everybody pulled together to make sure that we could get our members what they deserved. This is the quality of life issue we have been trying to get for our members since bargaining started,” said Dennis Pierce, president of the engineers’ union.
The new deal still needs to be ratified by union members before taking effect and totally ending the threat of an industrial action. As part of the agreement, both sides have agreed to another cooling-off period to ensure that if the agreement is not ratified by the union members, there isn’t an immediate rail shutdown.
But it’s good news for the wide range of businesses who depend on railroads and for the wider American economy.