Members of the union, which mainly represents freight rail conductors, narrowly rejected a provisional labor contract, their union said Monday.
If the two sides are unable to reach another interim agreement by early December, railroad workers may go on strike.
About 51 percent of the union’s voting members, the SMART Transportation Division, rejected the deal. Members of the second largest union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Railroad Workers, representing mainly engineers, voted in favor of the agreement with 53.5%.
SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said in a statement, “We have told you that SMART-TD members have voted and are now back at the negotiating table of the operating vessel members.” “All of this can be resolved through negotiation without a strike. A settlement would be in the best interests of workers, railroads, shippers, and the American people.”
Ian Jeffries, CEO of the American Railroad Association, which represents major airlines, said in a statement that “railroads are ready to sign new contracts,” but that “a deadline has passed. “The window keeps narrowing as we get closer and closer.”
The proposal, which reached in September with the backing of the Biden administration, targets more than 100,000 members of 12 rail industry unions and cuts wages by 25 over five years, starting in 2020 when the last contract expires. It was supposed to raise near %.
But rail workers say their biggest concerns are the grueling and unpredictable schedules that take a toll on their personal lives and health. Many people find it difficult to see a doctor for illness or injury, or to attend family milestones like a child’s birthday, due to longer travel times and longer on-call work. I complain when I am there.
Employees can usually meet these needs by taking paid time off, according to the railway company. Workers say employers are actually limiting their options for taking paid time off.
Interim agreements allowed workers to leave up to three times a year for routine medical appointments without risking disciplinary action, although many workers have He said the concessions were insufficient and did not address the deeper issues underlying their concerns. A model that tries to minimize labor costs, leading to chronic labor shortages.
The Surface Transportation Commission, the federal agency that regulates freight railroads, estimates that major freight carriers are hiring about 30% fewer workers this year than they were six years ago.
Three smaller unions covered by the agreement voted against it before the conductors union voted against it. That in itself could lead to an industry-wide strike, as railroad workers were less likely to cross the picket lines of other unions.
Skeptical conductors and engineers say the tentative agreement will exacerbate staffing issues and make schedules even more unpredictable by allowing airlines to apply staffing changes they have long sought. pointing out that it is possible.
In the current system, conductors and engineers drop to the bottom of the crew when they finish the service, and gradually rise to the top before being sent out again.
When a colleague calls in sick, a group of workers, called an extra board, are put in their place, so other conductors and engineers aren’t immediately moved up the list, maintaining schedule predictability. increase.
Employees say the reduction of redundant boards in recent years has undermined this predictability. but appeared to give the union a formal say in whether or not to do so.
“The self-defense pool is really, really big,” said Michael Paul Lindsey, a member of the Idaho-based Engineers’ Union, alluding to why many workers opposed the deal. .
Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh, who brokered a deal that unions voted against in September, said in an interview with CNN earlier this month that he would avoid a strike if both sides were unable to resolve their differences. Congress must intervene because of this. It was unclear from the interview whether he was urging intervention or simply intended to present possible options under the law.
Congressional involvement can take many forms. Congress could extend the so-called cooling-off period during which the two sides negotiate without a strike, or require both sides to enter arbitration.
It could also pass legislation that would enact a proposal by the president’s Emergency Committee earlier this summer. The proposal’s holiday provisions were less generous than the agreement that was just voted down.
Lindsay said Walsh’s remarks angered colleagues who thought the industry should be allowed to strike if it didn’t make enough concessions. He suspected many workers were primarily concerned with preventing labor unrest from boiling over before this month’s midterm elections, rather than with the government addressing their concerns. He said that
“People feel completely sold out,” Lindsey said, adding, “Now that the election is over, there will be no accountability.”