One of the United States’ largest railroad labor unions has voted down a tentative agreement with rail management, raising the likelihood of a strike occurring by December. A strike could cause chaos as essential supplies become stranded along the rails.
The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) has rejected the recent White House-brokered contract. The group has approximately 36,000 active members.
The contract vote garnered record member turnout and was rejected by a slim margin of 50.8 percent voting against it. The results arrived roughly one month after three other rail unions rejected the brokered contract. (Related: THIRD union rejects Biden deal; likelihood of rail strike increases.)
“SMART-TD members with their votes have spoken. It’s now back to the bargaining table for our operating craft members,” said SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson. “This can all be settled through negotiations and without a strike. A settlement would be in the best interests of the workers, the railroads, shippers and the American people.”
Engineers’ union votes to accept deal, but will not cross the picket line in case of a strike
On the same day that SMART-TD rejected the deal, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), which represents some 24,000 members, mostly freight train engineers, voted in favor of the White House-brokered deal.
Despite voting in favor of the contract, all 12 unions involved in the railroad industry, including the BLET, vowed not to cross the picket line in the event that even just one union voted against the new deal. This means that the entire system would still be brought to a standstill.
“We stood shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in SMART-TD and others in rail labor throughout this process, and we will continue to stand in solidarity with them as we approach the finish line in this round of negotiations,” said BLET President Dennis Pierce in a statement.
So far, including the BLET, four unions have voted in favor of the new contract. Four others, including SMART-TD, have rejected it.
Without an agreement, coordinated strike could begin as early as Dec. 9
The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWED), which represents nearly 12,000 railroad workers and was the first union to reject the White House-brokered deal back in October, is scheduled to strike on Dec. 5.
The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), another rail union representing around 6,000 rail workers, has signaled that it will maintain its status quo period through Dec. 8 to align with the expected strike dates of the BMWED and SMART-TD. If no agreement is reached by then, a coordinated strike could begin on Dec. 9.
The BRS, BMWED and SMART-TD represent over 50 percent of all men and women working in America’s railroad industry.
Because rail unions that voted to ratify have pledged not to cross the picket line, coordinated strike action by these three unions will make it nearly impossible for the nine other unions that represent railroad workers to do their jobs, collapsing America’s entire rail-dependent supply chain and costing the country an estimated $2 billion per day.
Learn more about other threats to America’s supply chain at SupplyChainWarning.com.
Watch this clip from Fox Business featuring financial expert and former National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow discussing how the potential railroad strike will make life much worse for Americans.
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