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What’s Going On With The Rail Unions?

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

The transport industry has taken many hits in the last few years but it is looking like it might be taking another. With dialogue between unions and freight rail carriers in gridlock and President Biden’s announcement of an emergency task force, the rail industry could be on the brink of strike action. So what is going on with the rail unions?

On Friday, Biden signed an order to intervene ahead of the deadline of intervention in the railroad labor talks. The intervention should hopefully curb any potential strike action. So, on Sunday when President Joe Biden announced an emergency task force to deal with the dispute, many freight companies were able to breathe a sigh of relief.

The board reflects some of the best in labor relations. For example, Ira F. Jaffee, board chair, has been involved in employment and labor arbitration for over 40 years and has served on five other emergency boards.

Meanwhile, David Twomey, board member, is a Boston College Professor who has also served on multiple rail and airline dispute boards. Barbara C. Deinhardt, another board member, is an independent arbitrator who has been critical to the New York State Employment Relations Board as well as the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board.

The White House explained that the board, "will provide a structure for workers and management to resolve their disagreements. The Board will investigate the dispute and, within 30 days of its establishment, deliver a report recommending how the dispute should be resolved."

Some disputes, such as the Union Pacific and Berkshire Hathaway-owned BNSF, have been in deadlock for over two years. The order will hopefully trigger a “cooling off” period between workers and their companies helping them to reach an agreement.

With 115,000 potential rail workers taking to the picket, this “cooling off” period is critical to ensuring that the economy continues to operate. Businesses have already shown their concern over potential industrial action with some stating that without an emergency board the industry would be in a “disastrous” situation. Therefore, it is essential that both parties are able to come to an agreement in order to curtail a serious threat to freight delivery and the US economy as a whole.

Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

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