Rail union: Plan for contract deal doesn’t address concerns

Aug 18, 2022, 3:17 AM | Updated: 3:22 pm
FILE - In this July 27, 2015, file photo, a BNSF Railway Company train is parked in Seattle. The he...

FILE - In this July 27, 2015, file photo, a BNSF Railway Company train is parked in Seattle. The head of the nation's largest railroad union says the report designed to help resolve stalled contract talks with freight railroads didn't do enough to address concerns about working conditions even though it recommended 24% raises, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022.(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The head of the nation’s largest railroad union says the report designed to help resolve stalled contract talks with freight railroads doesn’t do enough to address concerns about working conditions, even though it suggests 24% raises.

The railroads indicated earlier this week that they were ready to hammer out a deal based on the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board that Joe Biden appointed last month. But Thursday’s first comments from union leadership suggest that the 115,000 workers they represent may not be ready to sign off.

Both sides have 30 days to negotiate a contract before federal law would allow a strike or lockout to happen. But if both sides do get to mid September without an agreement, Congress is likely to intervene and impose terms to avert a strike.

The recommendations of the advisory were a “vast improvement” over the railroads’ previous proposals, said Jeremy Ferguson, president of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division union that represents conductors. But, he added, “the recommendations do not go far enough to provide our members with the quality of life that they have earned, and that both they and their families deserve.”

The other 11 unions involved in the contract talks haven’t yet commented on the details. Ferguson’s comments echo some of the concerns individual railroad workers have been posting online since the report was released Tuesday.

Workers want the railroads to ease some of their restrictive attendance policies that they say keep them on call and make it hard to take any days off. The unions also say that the always difficult railroad work has become significantly more demanding in recent years after major freight railroads eliminated nearly one third of their jobs.

The railroads maintain that they don’t need as many employees and locomotives as they used to because they overhauled their operations to run fewer, longer trains.

Ferguson said the recommendations from the panel of arbitrators don’t do much to resolve the divide between railroad investors and executives who have benefitted from the recent record profits, and the workers who keep the trains running 24-7 and toiled throughout the pandemic.

The arbitrators said most of the unions’ concerns about working conditions should be resolved through arbitration, which can drag on for years, instead of through the contract negotiations. The contract talks themselves have been going on for more than two years already.

The group that negotiates on behalf of the major railroads, the National Carriers Conference Committee, said the recommended deal would deliver the biggest raises in decades and push average railroad salaries up to $110,000 a year by the end of the five-year deal.

In addition to the raises, which are bigger than the 17% ones railroads were offering but not as generous as the 31% raises the unions sought, the recommended deal would include five $1,000 bonuses and one additional paid leave day a year.

Another key sticking point in the negotiations has been the railroads’ proposal to cut train crews from two people down to one. The unions firmly oppose that move not just to protect jobs but also because they say they are concerned about safety.

Federal regulators proposed a rule last month that will require two-person crews in most instances, but railroads have continued pressing for the change because they say a new automatic braking system that can stop trains in certain circumstances makes having a second person in the cab unnecessary.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - New Hampshire Republican U.S. Senate candidate Don Bolduc speaks during a debate Sept. 7, 20...
Associated Press

Another shift for NH GOP Senate candidate on 2020 election

HUDSON, N.H. (AP) — Don Bolduc isn’t making a full about-face, but the Republican nominee for Senate in New Hampshire can’t seem to stop shifting his position about whether the 2020 presidential election was legitimate. The retired Army general claimed during his primary campaign that the White House race was stolen from former President Donald […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Teen sought in ambush outside school that killed 1, hurt 4

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Police are seeking a 16-year-old youth in last week’s ambush shooting outside a Philadelphia high school that killed a 14-year-old and wounded four other teenagers after a football scrimmage Police said Tuesday that the 16-year-old is wanted on active arrest warrants for a charge of murder and multiple counts of attempted murder […]
2 days ago
Associated Press

Estonian PM urges not to give in to Putin’s nuclear threats

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Estonia’s prime minister said Tuesday that the West must not give in to Moscow’s nuclear threats or premature peace proposals but stand firmly in support of Ukraine as the invaded country fights to rid its occupied territories of Russian soldiers. Kaja Kallas, who has led Estonia’s government since last year, told […]
2 days ago
A protester carries a piece of wood simulating a weapon during a protest demanding the resignation ...
Associated Press

Haiti at breaking point as economy tanks and violence soars

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Daily life in Haiti began to spin out of control last month just hours after Prime Minister Ariel Henry said fuel subsidies would be eliminated, causing prices to double. Gunshots rang out as protesters blocked roads with iron gates and mango trees. Then Haiti’s most powerful gang took it a step […]
2 days ago
This image made available by NOIRLab shows a plume of dust and debris blasted from the surface of t...
Associated Press

Smacked asteroid’s debris trail more than 6,000 miles long

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — The asteroid that got smacked by a NASA spacecraft is now being trailed by thousands of miles of debris from the impact. Astronomers captured the scene millions of miles away with a telescope in Chile. Their remarkable observation two days after last month’s planetary defense test was recently released a […]
2 days ago
In a Friday Jan. 8, 2016, photo, Flint residents shout while protesting outside of Flint City Hall ...
Associated Press

Key moments in Flint, Michigan’s lead-tainted water crisis

FLINT, Mich. (AP) — A Michigan judge’s order dismissing charges against seven people in the Flint water scandal is the latest development in a crisis that started in 2014. That was when the city began taking water from the Flint River without treating it properly, resulting in lead contamination. Here’s a look at some key […]
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Rail union: Plan for contract deal doesn’t address concerns