Machinist Union Members Approve Revised Railroad Labor Deal

Date: Monday, November 7th, 2022
Source: Wall Street Journal

Members of a labor union for machinists narrowly approved an agreement on wages and work conditions with large freight railroads, after rejecting an earlier proposal.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 19 said Saturday that its members voted to ratify a revised agreement that its leaders had negotiated with the railroads. The IAM members had voted to reject the original contract on Sept. 14, a day before the White House brokered a deal between the companies and three other unions.

Union Pacific Corp., UNP -0.38%decrease; red down pointing triangle CSX Corp. CSX 0.32%increase; green up pointing triangle and other U.S. freight railroads have been in negotiations with a dozen labor unions representing about 115,000 workers. President Biden appointed an emergency panel over the summer to propose a compromise and avert the first national strike in two decades.

So far, members at seven unions, including IAM, have ratified the deal but two others haven’t. The unions have agreed to standstill agreements that would delay any strike until other unions have cast their votes.

Two large unions, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen as well as the transportation division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, are still in the process of voting. They are expected to announce results around Nov. 21.

Retail and chemical-industry trade associations have called for the White House to intervene to broker another deal between the two sides if needed to prevent rail-service disruptions. Congress could also intervene to impose terms on both sides and avoid a strike under the Railway Labor Act of 1926.

The White House says the onus is on the companies and unions to negotiate an agreement. “Any shutdown would be completely unacceptable,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Oct. 26. “And any idea that kicking this to Congress will result in a quick or favorable outcome is just deeply misguided.”

IAM, which represents about 4,900 locomotive machinists, track-equipment mechanics and facility-maintenance personnel, said around 59% of members voted and 52% of them accepted the deal.

“Our union recognizes that the agreement wasn’t accepted overwhelmingly,“ IAM said. “This agreement is the first step in addressing some of the issues in our industry.”

The contract negotiated in September is retroactive to 2019 and runs through 2024. It includes about 24% increases in wages over the five years. The deal allows for one additional paid day off, on top of existing vacation and paid time off. Some unions had pushed for more paid sick time and changes to attendance policies with points systems that railroads have introduced.

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