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Looming Rail Labor Strike To Further Stress America’s Reeling Supply Chain

Looming Rail Labor Strike To Further Stress America’s Reeling Supply Chain

Railroad union members vote 99.5% to authorize a July 18 nationwide strike.

This nation has experienced a number of serious supply chain issues over the past year.

Now, another serious issue is on the horizon: Biden faces a July 18th deadline to intervene in nationwide U.S. railroad labor talks covering 115,000 workers.

The stakes are high for Biden, who wants to tackle inflation-stoking supply-chain woes and is already working to reach a deal in the critical labor talks at West Coast seaports.

If the president declines to intercede in the railroad labor negotiations by appointing a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) before 12:01 a.m. EDT on Monday, the railroads and unions could opt for operational shutdowns or strikes, respectively. If appointed, the board would make recommendations that could be used as a framework for a voluntary settlement.

A White House official told Reuters the administration “is going through the standard process that has been used in the past when considering a PEB.” The White House declined further comment.

Union officials indicate that they do not want to go on strike, but are being forced to consider the option to try and obtain better benefits and wages, as well as to address staffing issues.

The unions have worked without a contract since July 1, 2019.

The two sides were forced into a 30-day “cooling off period” after failing to reach an agreement working through the National Mediation Board. The cooling off period prevents unions from striking or railroads from locking out their workers while they continue to negotiate.

That cooling off period ends at midnight on July 18, and a coalition of unions could choose to go on strike at that point, said Sheet Metal Air Rail Transportation union president Jeremy Ferguson.

However, the Railway Labor Act, which sets out the rules for these kinds of disputes, allows President Joe Biden to appoint a three-member emergency board to investigate and make recommendations to both sides about how to settle their differences.

The union is not allowed to strike during the Presidential Emergency Board’s investigation.

This potential strike is a serious issue. Yet, in this summer of January 6th drama, gun control kabuki, and abortion theater, the press has spent next to no time covering this issue.

Should a strike occur, there are some supply chain statistics to keep in mind. About 1/3rd of American exports are transported to rail. Freight rail is part of an integrated network of trains, trucks and barges that ships around 61 tons of goods per American every year. Many of those goods include essentials, like energy and food.

As of July 12, over 99% of union workers have voted to authorize a strike.

The membership of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to authorize a strike if progress on a new labor contract isn’t made by the end of the week. The union is one of 13 rail worker unions negotiating a national labor contract after the previous contract expired in 2019.

The vote comes days before a federally mandated “cooling off period” between the unions and rail carriers is set to expire, after the two sides failed in June to reach an agreement before the National Mediation Board.

The supply chain is about to go off the rails.


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What? Doesn’t Mayor Pete Buttplug have a plan to deal with that?

OK. Now I’m certain I’ve been transported into the plot of Atlas Shrugged.

Elon Musk playing the role of Hank Reardon.

Gotta get my @ss to Galt Gulch!

    henrybowman in reply to Finn Harp. | July 13, 2022 at 10:37 pm

    If some tunnel has to collapse to confirm the narrative, please let it be the tunnel between the White House and the “safe room” in the Treasury Building… while Joe and his crew are in transit.

Sources say 70% of coal is transported by rail; elsewhere, 23% of the electricity produced in the US comes from coal fired power stations.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Biden admin wants a strike, if only to kill coal-fired power and force solar/wind investment.

Let me consult my political analyst:

Magic 8-Ball, will Joe Biden purposely dither until the railroads strike, so he and the Democrats can fuck America even further?


Actually, I don’t own a Magic 8-Ball.
In this case, I don’t need one.

The cruelly funny part, IMO, is this is the sort of thing that occur routinely in r administrations and suck the air out of everything else as the media runs nonstop doom and gloom. They are occurring two a penny in the Biden WH and the media can’t decide whether to cover the last thing they downplayed or instead cover the new thing.

Normally a President can rely on at some of his Cabinet members not eff things up but the Biden team is spectacularly incompetent. They slam from one compound error to another like a tragic game of number cars. It’s as if they get a bonus for creating, then ignoring, then denying, then downplaying the problems and whomever racks up the highest count wins first place.

    WTPuck in reply to CommoChief. | July 14, 2022 at 12:14 pm

    Everything that has happened is deliberate. If they wanted a different outcome, their policies would be different.

      CommoChief in reply to WTPuck. | July 14, 2022 at 2:41 pm

      It’s deliberate for sure. I’m about half convinced that the results are a surprise to some of them. After all what’s another set of regulations on top of all the rest? One more layer can’t make that much difference right? Why would it? The incremental approach they applied never brought the nation to its knees before, the productive folks always found a way to produce despite the leftist policies so why should today be different?

      So yeah I believe some of these neo Marxist acolytes are genuinely surprised that the deliberate application of their policies have finally gone too far and seriously injured if not killed the goose that lays the golden eggs to pay for their utopia dream.

Subotai Bahadur | July 13, 2022 at 10:44 pm

1. Unions are part of the Democrat power structure.
2. They will do as directed by the Democrats, regardless of the wishes or interests of their members.
3. As an example affecting the supply chain, remember the back up of the container ships off of our West Coast ports? And how the Longshoremen refused to speed up to clear the shortfalls?

Hope everyone’s pantries are full.

Subotai Bahadur

    And how the Longshoremen refused to speed up to clear the shortfalls?

    I’m pretty sure they’re still refusing to speed up, why else would there be an ongoing labor dispute at West coast ports?

      Subotai Bahadur in reply to randian. | July 14, 2022 at 12:40 am

      As far as I know, they still are. After all, we cannot have them doing anything to keep OUR economy going.

      Subotai Bahadur

      90A in reply to randian. | July 14, 2022 at 7:27 pm

      Add fuel to the fire is the People’s Democratic Socialist Republik of Kalifornia banning semi truck owner-operators & no diesel tractors built prior to 2011.

    Bradoplata in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | July 14, 2022 at 1:24 am

    Rail labor votes republican. Lots of former military and outdoorsman types.

    Dimsdale in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | July 14, 2022 at 7:53 am

    Most likely, they will allow Biden to miraculously rescue the country from his supply chain woes just in time for the election…

    Just like the clockwork “pandemic” part deux.

Three years without a contract. I’d vote to authorize a strike, too.

I’m sure Mayor Pete will talk about house plan to address the issue when head on the 2024 campaign trail.

Uggg… His plan…. Damn you, autocorrect.

They don’t want to strike? That’s an obvious lie. They will never have no more leverage than they do now to get obscene wage and benefits increases, and that will drive more inflation into the nationwide supply chain.

    Bradoplata in reply to randian. | July 14, 2022 at 1:22 am

    We only get paid when we work. We don’t want to strike because we won’t get paid. An overwhelmingly majority of rail labor votes republican anyway.

    Dathurtz in reply to randian. | July 14, 2022 at 7:05 am

    No contract for three years seems a legit issue to me.

    GuardDuck in reply to randian. | July 14, 2022 at 1:07 pm

    3 years no contract. RR’s “negotiations” include: pay more for health insurance, get raises at half rate of cost of living increase, cut train crew sizes in half, get fired for not being available to work on call 24/7/365.

    I’ve seen co-workers with 10-15-20 years of seniority just up and leave. That’s unheard of in such a niche, seniority based career.

Oh sure, that’s going to help the economy a whole bunch

Rail strike? Add it to the list. The country is in deep, deep trouble, wide and deep. Surviving nearly two more years of this will require – will have been – a Constitutional miracle. If it does survive cleaning up the mess will require generations . . . plural. Rail strike,indeed.

Just hire permanent replacements.

The legal mistake in labor law is that X and Y shouldn’t acquire more rights against Z by combining forces than they had individually. In particular they can’t force Z to negotiate with them.

    90A in reply to rhhardin. | July 14, 2022 at 7:33 pm

    Railroading, like aviation & truck driving; is not an industry where you or the administration can just say ‘hire more people’ & expect things to run smoothly or more importantly, safely.

    It takes months to properly train railroad workers, to not make a false move that can instantly result in your or any one else’s death/injury; or in some cases, dozens or hundreds of deaths. It’s an unforgiving industry.

Send in Kamala to fix it.

….insert video of her cackling here….

2smartforlibs | July 14, 2022 at 9:08 am

One court order that always comes will put them right back to work. They have been considered national security for decades. Can we was this space on important issues?

I know few here agree with me but not only has the Chinese economy been collapsing, it is in freefall.

This is the main reason why oil prices and economic forecasts have been coming down lately. BTW, Japan’s economy is on the brink too as is the EU and Russia… Brandon is the only one left committing to the Paris Accords.

So much for the China Century? Is anyone left here who will argue that point with me?

Well… union members need a pay raise to help offset the taxes they will be paying to pay off white collar student loans. Essentially, blue collar union members will be pay for their white collar bosses’ student loan debts. LOL. And union members will still send money to democrats despite this.

CaptScientist | July 14, 2022 at 3:59 pm

Had a motorcycle(RT) accident back in May……bike shop is still waiting on parts.

I’ve never been a big Union supporter, but this time I side w/the union & employees. When you have 20 or 25 year railroad employees quitting when they’re 5 or 10 years from a generous retirement, something stinks. Or if you have former railroad employees who’ve been ‘furloughed’ (laid off) who refuse to come back to a well paying job w/a generous retirement, something stinks. What’s not being said or reported on, is the Class 1’s want to reduce the train crew size from two to one, creating a safety issue. Railroaders don’t have the best lifestyle some far as health & eating is concerned. Class 1’s always are hiring & then furloughing/firing/or washing out job applicants to claim they can’t get anyone to work to justify the one person crew.

In previous times, employees could normally take five weekdays and two weekend days off per month. At the beginning of each month, the railroad would look back at the last 90 days, and if an employee had been available to work 75% of the time then they remained in good standing. That system made it possible to take personal days for things like doctor’s appointments, family commitments and more.

It was also possible to predict when you might go to work in the next day or so, Railroads have “pools” of engineers and conductors that work certain segments of railroads, such as Whitefish to Havre. When a train arrived at a terminal they would call the first available engineer and conductor to take it to its next destination. If those employees weren’t available, they would call employees off the “extra board,” who tended to have less seniority on the job and an even more chaotic schedule. Calling employees off the extra board avoided disrupting the schedule for the regular pool employees, meaning if an engineer or conductor knew there were eight crews ahead of them on the call list they could make an educated guess about when they might be called to run a train — regardless of whether someone ahead of them decided to take a personal day or called in sick. It must be noted employees on the ‘extra board’ stayed there until they could gain enough seniority to gain a predicable schedule.

For the ‘Class 1’s (the seven, soon to be six major railroads in North America), they changed how it assigned its employees to trains. Instead of having them work the same stretch of track every trip, the company would call employees to work trains going in any direction out of their home base: At about the same time, Class 1’s also decided to put fewer employees on the “extra board,” Those two things combined to make it even harder to figure out when an employee might get called to work.

All of this started when the Class 1’s implemented what’s called ‘PSR’ or Precision Scheduled Railroading. What PSR does is cut the number of locomotives, maintenance crews, anything that might cause an expense to the railroad. Thousands of employees from all crafts were ‘furloughed (laid off) & trains combined into 10-15 or so thousand foot monster trains. Longer trains w/fewer employees & locomotives meant trains took longer to reach destinations; & I’df they did, weren’t able to go into a rail yard because they were usually full if rail cars unable to be sent to their destinations.

Wall Street loves PSR because it cuts the operating expense & increase shareholder value. A common joke is when a train derails & creates a big mess, the first thought is are the shareholders OK.?

Starting Feb. 1, BNSF, for example; implemented a new attendance policy called “Hi-Viz” that assigns all employees 30 points. If they miss a call or take an unplanned day off, even for a family emergency, sickness or fatigue, they lose points. The exact number of points deducted depends on the type of absence and where it falls on the calendar (weekend days and holidays cost more points). An employee can get four points back if they’re available to work 14 days in a row. If an employee loses all their points, they can be disciplined. If they lose their points multiple times they can be fired.

SomI don’t blame the employees at all for taking a stand.