The deal, with unions representing more than 50,000 engineers and conductors, was announced just after 5 a.m. ET in a White House statement, which called it “a significant victory for our economy and the American people.”
According to sources, a verbal agreement was reached between the two sides at around 2:30 pm, according to ET, and the last hours were spent working out the details.
“We are very proud of what was accomplished,” said Jeremy Ferguson, president of the conductor’s union and one of the leaders involved in the marathon session. He thanked Biden and Labor Department officials involved in negotiating the deal.
“All pulled together to make sure we get our members what they deserved,” he said.
“It’s a quality of life issue that we’ve been trying to get for our members since the bargaining began,” said Dennis Pearce, president of the union of engineers and other union official involved in the negotiations.
Pierce and Ferguson met with Biden at the White House later Thursday morning. In the Rose Garden, Biden thanked Railroads negotiators and administration officials who took part in the talks.
“You’ve reached an agreement that will keep our vital rail system working and protect our economy from disruptions,” Biden said. “I am grateful. This agreement is an affirmation of what I have always believed in: Unions and management can work together … for the benefit of all.”
A win for workers, railroads and the economy
The deal gives union members an immediate 14% increase with back pay dating to 2020, and increases the total by 24% during the five-year life of the contract, which runs from 2020 to 2024. It also gives them a cash bonus of $1,000. year. All told, once the deal is confirmed, Backpay and Prior Bonuses will pay union members an average of $11,000 per person.
Few other details of the deal have been made public so far. But Biden’s statement indicated that major sticking points – including work rules and scheduling issues – that brought the country within a day of its first national rail strike in 30 years, were addressed in favor of unions.
Biden said in a statement, “This is a victory for the thousands of railroad workers who worked tirelessly during the pandemic to ensure America’s families and communities get what we deserve during these difficult years.” Have a delivery.” “These railroad workers will find better pay, better working conditions and peace of mind around health care costs: all hard-earned.”
The controversy was about staff shortages and scheduling rules that union leaders said had brought their membership to a breaking point. Unions say railroads require their members to be “on call” and ready to report to work at short notice as often as seven days a week. The leadership of both unions said that their members would not accept the contract without changing those working rules.
The union said the deal offers an additional paid day a year as well as protection against discipline if they need time to attend routine and preventive medical care, as well as hospitalization and surgical intervention. There are also exemptions from attendance policies for procedures. Rail action against workers unable to call or report to work due to medical issues had sparked fury among union members.
Biden also described the deal as “a win for railway companies that will be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be the backbone of the US economy for decades to come.” “
It’s a significant victory for Biden, who made nothing but bad choices when the deal didn’t happen. His supporters among unions would have been angered by the business community’s support of Congress’s action to demand the imposition of a contract on workers. Stopping work just before the mid-term elections could jeopardize the economic consequences at large.
how did we get here
It also imposed a cooling-off period of 60 days, during which unions could not strike and management could not lay off workers. This cooling off period was supposed to end in the early hours of Friday.
Biden could not order railroads to continue operations after the cooling-off period ended on Friday. Had the strike started, only the Congress could work to get the unions back to work.
Calling Congress to act with a wide range of business groups, Republicans drafted legislation that could give railroad management the deal they wanted. But Democrats were opposed to such action.
A union source said the Democrats’ refusal to go along with management was the key to the talks.
“The Senate leadership did not act, giving room for these negotiations,” the union source said. He said Walsh had “hanged up” with the union during the talks.
“It was a slog yesterday,” he said, back and forth a lot.
“Our people were not going to give up,” the source said. “Our people would have gone on strike” had there not been an agreement by the Friday deadline.
Rank and file ratification still required
The agreement does not mean that the threat of strike is completely gone. The deal needs to be approved by rank-and-file union members.
“We’ve got a little bit of paid time off, but we’ll live to fight another day. You know, it’s part of the bargain,” Michael Baldwin, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, told CNN. “When members look at what’s in the contract, I think they’re going to see that the pay and extra days off is going to be beneficial to them. … Sometimes you can’t get everything done. So come back next time.”
Another union leader was confident that the provisional deal would be accepted.
“I think we got everything we could do,” Dennis Pierce, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, told CNN. “And I think once our membership understands where we sit and what’s in it, I think it will confirm.”
Recently, members of some unions have refrained from approving deals, even when recommended by their union leadership.
The Association of American Railroads also praised the deal and thanked the Biden administration as well as the unions themselves for their role in reaching an agreement.
The pay hike and bonus were recommended by a presidential panel that was accused of trying to find a solution to the stalemate in talks at the time.
While those terms were tempting enough for most rail unions to agree to tentative deals in recent weeks, engineers and conductors, who were faced with work and scheduling rules that did not apply to others, offered relief on the scheduling issue. refused to sign without ,
the disturbances had already begun
Railroad customers who faced major problems expressed relief that the strike was averted.
“This is great news for the economy,” said Eric Hoplin, CEO of the National Association of Wholesale Distributors, in an appearance on CNN’s New Day Thursday. “My phone has been going off for the past 48 hours, talking to delivery leaders across the country, who were talking about what could be some disastrous consequences for America’s supply chain and economy.”
According to business leaders and economists, higher prices of food and cars and a shortage of consumer goods during the holiday shopping season were likely if there was a longer strike.