(September 15, 2022, 9:04 AM) Rail freight companies have reached a tentative agreement with unions threatening to strike tomorrow. It took President Biden getting involved and a negotiating session with the Secretary of Labor that lasted 20 hours and ended until 2: AM this morning.
40% of the country’s long-haul freight travels by rail, so this is a good sign, but it is tentative. The union rank and file still have to vote. However, they have agreed not to strike until the votes are taken.
In light of the agreement, Amtrak is restoring routes it had canceled yesterday.
There are ominous signs that a national railroad strike is becoming more likely. One hundred forty thousand railroad workers may walk off the job this Friday.
Today, The Hill ran an article by Karl Evers-Hillstrom, entitled, “Rail union becomes first to authorize strike, threatening supply chain.” The union in question is the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). They have rejected the contract and voted to authorize a strike.
That news comes on top of Amtrak’s announcement of canceling routes in anticipation of disruptions caused by the strike. Here is what they stated in an announcement posted to their website yesterday, September 13:
Amtrak is closely monitoring ongoing freight rail management—labor contract negotiations. While these negotiations do not involve Amtrak or the Amtrak workforce, many of our trains operate over freight railroad tracks. Because the parties have not yet reached a resolution, Amtrak has begun to make initial service adjustments in response to a possible freight railroad service interruption that could occur later this week. If your train is canceled, we will attempt to notify you at least 24 hours in advance at the contact information you provided when making a reservation—as well as offer the opportunity to receive a full refund.Amtrak
Also demonstrating the seriousness of the situation, the White House has ratcheted up its actions. According to the Wall Street Journal,
Senior administration officials are communicating with ocean-shipping, trucking and airfreight companies among others to determine how to keep goods moving in case of a rail shutdown and what commodities are most likely to face severe disruptions.White House Explores Rail-Freight Alternatives as Possible Strike Looms, Andrew Restuccia, Wall Street journal, September 13, 2022
A railroad strike will force shippers to turn to already overwhelmed truckers. If there is a strike, let’s hope it ends quickly.