WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — It’s a deal that could go off the rails, as the U.S. is closer to a rail strike that could paralyze the economy. If a resolution isn’t reached soon, Americans could see a strike in two weeks.
Time is ticking toward a December 8 deadline, to avoid a major strike after another of the nation’s largest railroad unions narrowly shot down a contract proposal backed by the White House.
“It was a very close vote,” said Jeremy Ferguson, president of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division.
That’s how Ferguson described the most recent effort to approve a deal for railroad workers.
“The message is clear that we have membership that is divided on this issue,” Ferguson said.
Rail workers have spent months negotiating for better working conditions, higher wages, increased sick pay and more flexible schedules.
“These are tough, demanding jobs, and the railroads have made them even tougher,” said Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen National President Dennis Pierce.
Pierce says his union voted to ratify their contract. But if one union strikes, all rail unions will strike with them.
“The unions can obviously strike but the railroads can obviously lock the employees out to motivate Congress. They’ve done it before,” Pierce said.
That would trigger a national rail shutdown, just before the holiday shopping season, damaging the economy.
“We cannot afford to have a work stoppage in this country,” said Association of American Railroads CEO Ian Jefferies.
President Joe Biden says the White House is keeping an eye on the situation and Jefferies says he’s still pushing for an agreement
“A negotiated positive outcome with each of our 12 unions is the goal,” Jefferies said.
Jefferies says the negotiations could take twists and turns and Congress could get involved if an agreement isn’t reached.