Senate Votes to Forestall Rail Work Stoppage

The Senate on Thursday voted to impose the tentative amended contract on unionized railroad workers thus ending two years of contentious collective bargaining and political wrangling that could have resulted in a national railroad work stoppage as early as Dec. 9.

The Senate voted 80-15 in favor a resolution adopted on Wednesday by the House to impose the tentative contract that members of four railroad labor unions rejected but members of eight other unions approved.

A second resolution to amend the tentative agreement to insert seven paid sick leave days failed to pass.

That resolution received a favorable 52-43 vote, but under Senate rules any measure that doesn’t receive at least 60 votes is subject to a filibuster.

The Senate also turned down on a 69-26 vote a resolution to extend the status quo for another 60 days, which if adopted would have sent the parties back to the bargaining table.

President Joseph R. Biden said in a statement he would sign the resolution imposing the amended contract as soon as it reaches his desk.

Biden and many other lawmakers had expressed fear that a railroad work stoppage would damage the nation’s economy.

Under federal law, labor contracts in the railroad industry never expire but can be amended, which typically occurs about every five years. Negotiations to amend the contract began in January 2020.

The tentative amended contract, which was reached in late September on the eve of another potential national work stoppage, gives unionized railroad workers a 24 percent compounded wage increase over the five-year length of the contract.

They will receive back pay once the amended contract is in force.

Various news reports in the past few months have indicated that work-life balance issues had become a major sticking point in the view of many unionized railroad workers.

They talked often about how they sometimes went to work feeling ill or fatigued because if they “marked off” they would not be paid and they would be subjected to being disciplined under what workers often described as “punitive” attendance policies.

Paid sick days became a focal point of the chatter surrounding the contract amendment process.

The amended contract, which was agreed to by the officers of all 12 railroad labor unions in September, did not include paid sick leave days.

Much of the September amended contract mirrored the recommendations of a presidential emergency board appointed by Biden last summer after federal mediators declared an impasse in the negotiations.

The PEB had recommended that the paid sick leave days issue be negotiated at the local level between unions and railroad management.

A resolution amending the contract to add seven paid sick leave days passed the House by a narrow margin on Wednesday. The voting was largely along partisan lines with Democrats supporting the resolution and Republicans opposed.

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One Response to “Senate Votes to Forestall Rail Work Stoppage”

  1. pwwoodring Says:

    Once again the crews don’t get what they really want – a life.

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