The president of the country’s biggest freight railway union has warned that Congress will almost certainly intervene to mediate conflicts between employers with union members and avoid a strike.
“I’m hopeful,” SMART Transportation Branch Director Jeremy Ferguson told Politico Monday evening. “I have a lot of outstanding issues; that’s why our guys voted against it.”
SMART-TD stated Monday that its members have voted against a contract involving freight railways. The cooling-off period expires on Dec. 4, but members are not permitted to stop working. They could strike at that point.
“Something has to happen by then, or we’re all going to walk,” Ferguson added. “There is such a short time span. Unfortunately, I believe Congress will panic and intervene here sometime next week.”
Despite the fact that eight unions have agreed to the agreement if one union chooses to strike, all of the others will join in and respect the picket lines. The head of the Brothers of Locomotive Engineering and Trainmen (BLET), one of the largest rail unions, stated as much, emphasizing that the group will stick to the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen’s date of strike is Dec. 5. As of Monday, the BRS has not stated whether it would extend the cooling-off period in order to meet the Dec. 9 strike date.
“Our members will undoubtedly honor the BRS strike line,” BLET leader Dennis Pierce told CNBC. “I believe every union will.”
Ferguson, on the other hand, expects Congress will intervene before the deadline. Congress could opt to implement the recommendations of a board created by President Joe Biden, to extend the cooling-off period, or to enforce the unions’ interim agreements.
On Tuesday, he will resume negotiations with rail companies and other unions that already have rejected the preliminary contracts.
“We’ll see if it gets anywhere,” Ferguson said, adding that “carriers have not yet been willing to cooperate with any of the three unions” — “and already, our deal contains a lot of work rules adjustments that theirs didn’t have. It’s a steeper hill for us to climb,” he added.
A prospective strike in the U.S. right before the holiday season would be devastating to the economy of a country already dealing with inflation and excessive prices for necessary products. Gasoline price increases and a shortage of supermarket items are possible if the organizations do not reach an agreement. The strike could potentially have an impact on shipments because UPS and FedEx both use trains on some level, however, neither company has spoken much on the subject.