US plan to end railroad contract dispute calls for 24 pct raises
The special board appointed by President Joe Biden to intervene in stalled railroad contract talks suggested on Aug. 16 that 115,000 rail workers should get 24 percent raises and thousands of dollars in bonuses as part of a new agreement to avert a strike.
Railroads and unions will use those recommendations as the basis for a new round of negotiations over the next month. It remains to be seen, however, whether railroads will agree to the higher wages or find ways to address union concerns about working conditions.
If the two sides can’t agree on a new deal by mid-September, federal law would allow a strike or lockout. But Congress is likely to intervene before then to keep the supply chain moving.
A railroad strike could devastate businesses that rely on Union Pacific, BNSF, Norfolk Southern, CSX and other major freight railroads to deliver raw materials and ship their products. In past national rail labor disputes, lawmakers have voted to impose terms on the railroads before workers could strike.
A White House official said Biden is optimistic the report will provide a good framework for successful negotiations because avoiding a rail shutdown is in the nation’s interests.
The railroads entered the Presidential Emergency Board process a month ago far apart from the 12 unions taking part. The unions have been seeking a 31 percent raise over the five years of the deal while the railroads were offering only 17 percent in compounded raises.
According the report, the board is recommending 24 percent wage increases and $5,000 in bonus payments over the life of the contract while adding one additional paid day off each year.