Railroad union rejects Biden’s contract, brings potential strike closer

A contract with freight carriers was rejected by one of the biggest railroad unions in the country, which once again increases the likelihood of a strike and the severe economic effects that would follow, according to The Washington Post.

Only a few weeks ago, the Biden administration assisted in mediating a deal between several unions and rail carriers, preventing a walkout that might have crippled the American supply chain and interfered with passenger service. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division announced Monday that it had rejected the deal.

According to officials, the third-largest train union’s members rejected the proposed five-year deal 56 percent to 43 percent. Railroad operations should continue as usual in the interim since both parties have agreed to restart talks at least through November 19.

Along with three of his Cabinet secretaries, his top economic adviser, and his chief of staff, President Biden personally participated in the negotiations that resulted in the agreement reached last month. He praised it as a victory for both employers and employees.

However, many union members expressed skepticism almost after; some even told the Post that the contents were vague. The plan includes $1,000 annual incentives for five years and a 24 percent pay boost by 2024, raising the average yearly salary to $110,000. Additionally, it guaranteed that medical co-pays and deductibles wouldn’t rise.

However, it appeared to only have one paid sick day, even though union leaders had advocated for 15.

“Railroaders are discouraged and upset with working conditions and compensation and hold their employer in low regard. Railroaders do not feel valued,” BMWED President Tony D. Cardwell said in a statement Monday announcing the vote outcome.

“They resent the fact that management holds no regard for their quality of life, illustrated by their stubborn reluctance to provide a higher quantity of paid time off, especially for sickness,” Cardwell said.

The tentative pact stemmed from two years of negotiations between the carriers and unions, and the White House appointed an emergency board in early July to mediate.

One of the sticking points was a points-based attendance policy adopted by some of the largest carriers earlier this year. Those policies can penalize workers for missing work for routine doctor’s appointments or family emergencies.

Workers had pushed for more flexibility in this area, and some seemed disappointed when the tentative deal appeared to include only one paid sick day.

The proposed deal was celebrated as a big achievement for Biden, who has pledged to be the “most pro-union president” in U.S. history. On Tuesday, a White House spokeswoman said that Biden remains focused on avoiding a shutdown.