On September 15th, a nationwide strike of 115,000 railway workers, represented by 12 separate unions, was averted by a tentative agreement brokered by the Biden administration. “The agreement can avert the significant damage that any shutdown would have brought” said President Biden. “In my opinion, seeing and bargaining a lot of contracts over the years, this is a nice contract, a good contract. And this will help companies with recruitment and retention.” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh told the Washington Post.
According to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), the tentative deal grants voluntary assigned days off, an immediate 14% raise, no increases to healthcare co-pays, and 1 additional day off (15 days were originally requested by the unions). Still unaddressed are the punitive attendance policies put in place by the rail carriers. Further, while the deal does give three unpaid leave days for medical appointments to workers, these days must be scheduled 30 days in advance and may only be taken on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, or Thursdays.
The deal now returns to the union rank and file for an approval vote and further negotiations. Opinions of the proposal are mixed, with one union, the International Association of Machinists #19 already rejecting it. All 12 of the unions have agreed to continue working until December 9th. Should an agreement not be reached by then, Congress is expected to step in to avert any work stoppages. Negotiations are forecasted to continue through the middle of November.