The possibility of a freight railroad strike was delayed at least a few weeks as the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED), the country’s third-largest rail union, agreed to continue negotiations.
The country’s 12 main railroad unions reached a tentative agreement with major rail companies in September to avert a strike. However, the members of two of the unions, BMWED and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), later voted against the agreement mostly because of a lack of paid sick time off. A strike by any one union could lead to a shutdown of the country’s major freight rail lines, affecting 30 percent of U.S. cargo shipments and costing the American economy $2 billion per day.
BMWED was preparing to strike as early as this week but moved the end of its cooling off period from Nov. 19 to Dec. 4 to align with the Brotherhood of Signalmen Union (BRS). That change provides more time for the remaining contract issues to be resolved.
In a statement, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, which is negotiating on behalf of the major rail companies, said “The railroads will remain engaged with BMWED throughout the extended cooling off period and will continue to seek an agreement based on the framework recommended by Presidential Emergency Board 250.”
Seven of the 12 railroad unions have ratified the earlier agreed upon deal and two more – the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Smart Transportation Division – are expected to vote on Nov. 21.