Railroad talks stall, so Biden likely to pick review board

Jun 14, 2022, 4:01 PM | Updated: 4:17 pm
FILE - This April 2, 2021, file photo shows freight train cars and containers at Norfolk Southern R...

FILE - This April 2, 2021, file photo shows freight train cars and containers at Norfolk Southern Railroad's Conway Yard in Conway, Pa. On Tuesday, June 14, 2022, the National Mediation Board decided that mediation isn't working in the joint talks that cover roughly 140,000 workers in 13 unions at the biggest freight railroads that deliver the raw materials many companies rely upon and the cars, chemicals and containers full of consumer goods they make. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Railroad contract talks remain deadlocked after more than two years of negotiations, so President Joe Biden will likely soon have to appoint a board to help settle the dispute.

The National Mediation Board determined Tuesday that mediation isn’t working in the joint talks that cover roughly 140,000 workers in 13 unions at the biggest freight railroads. They deliver the raw materials many companies rely upon, as well as the cars, chemicals and containers full of consumer goods the companies make.

The federal law that governs the contract talks says arbitration is the next step, but both sides have to accept that and the unions have said they won’t. That means Biden is expected to appoint a Presidential Emergency Board to investigate why the two sides haven’t been able to reach a deal and make recommendations.

The unions are optimistic that a board appointed by a self-described pro-union president will be sympathetic to their side, while helping bring the two sides closer together. That board’s recommendations are likely to trigger a new round of negotiations.

But the workers are also frustrated after not getting any raises since 2019 and enduring increasingly strict attendance policies that BNSF and Union Pacific have imposed. They want to be compensated for keeping the railroads running during the pandemic and they want their pay to increase enough to offset inflation.

Plus, they have seen nearly one-third of the union jobs eliminated at the major freight railroads in recent years as railroads overhauled their operations.

The unions also vehemently oppose railroad proposals to cut rail crews from two people down to one.

“The railroads have still refused to make an offer remotely close to what their employees would consider ratifying,” said Dennis Pierce, the national president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

The unions say the tough workplace rules that BNSF and Union Pacific adopted without negotiating make it difficult to take any time off.

Rutgers University professor Todd Vachon, who teaches classes about labor relations, said the railroad contract dispute predates the recent spate of strikes, but the ongoing labor shortages may have the unions feeling more emboldened about pressing their complaints. He said it will be interesting to see what happens if the disagreement falls to Congress to resolve because “the political stakes feel much greater now” and public support for unions is higher than in the past.

“Given that the railways extend through red states and blue states and employ workers of various political persuasions, it could make for interesting bedfellows as elected leaders jockey to position themselves in a positive light,” Vachon said.

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee that represents UP, BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Kansas City Southern and other railroads said it’s disappointed that mediation failed.

“It remains in the best interests of all parties — and the public – to settle this dispute, provide for prompt pay increases for all rail employees, and prevent rail service disruptions,” the NCCC said.

A strike, which wouldn’t be allowed unless the presidential board fails and Congress refuses to intervene in the dispute, could prove disastrous for the fragile supply chain that is still struggling to recover from the worker shortages during the pandemic.

The railroads are already having trouble delivering goods on time this year largely because they can’t hire workers quickly enough to keep their trains moving on schedule as companies try to ship more. The railroads have said the main solution to their current shipping problems will be hiring and training hundreds of additional workers — something Pierce suggests would be much easier if the railroads would offer workers a better deal.

“Treating people like this, you just can’t expect people to come work for you,” he said.

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


The Supreme Court is seen, Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)...
Associated Press

Supreme Court limits EPA in curbing power plant emissions

WASHINGTON (AP) — In a blow to the fight against climate change, the Supreme Court on Thursday limited how the nation’s main anti-air pollution law can be used to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. By a 6-3 vote, with conservatives in the majority, the court said that the Clean Air Act does not […]
8 hours ago
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference on the final day of the NATO summit in Madrid, ...
Associated Press

Biden backs filibuster exception to protect abortion access

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would support an exception to the Senate filibuster to protect access to abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. “If the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like voting rights,” Biden said during a press conference in Madrid, where he was attending […]
8 hours ago
FILE - Heavy machinery is used by members of Danish health authorities, assisted by members of the ...
Associated Press

Commission report blasts decision to cull all Denmark’s mink

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A Danish Parliament-appointed commission has harshly criticized the country’s government for its decision to cull millions of healthy mink at the height of the coronavirus pandemic to protect humans from a mutation of the virus. The 2020 decision to wipe out Denmark’s entire captive mink population had stirred strong controversy, particularly […]
8 hours ago
Zabiullah Mujahid, the spokesman for the Taliban government, speaks during a press conference in Ka...
Associated Press

Afghan Taliban hold clerics gathering, aiming to boost rule

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers held a gathering Thursday of some 3,000 Islamic clerics and tribal elders for the first time since seizing power in August, urging those at the meeting to advise them on running the country. Women were not allowed to attend. The Taliban, who have kept a complete lock on decision-making […]
8 hours ago
FILE - This screen shot from video, shows former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, during his Zoom hearing...
Associated Press

Ex-Michigan governor takes the 5th at Flint water trial

DETROIT (AP) — Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder invoked his right against self-incrimination Thursday and declined to answer questions at a civil trial arising from lead contamination in Flint’s water in 2014-15. Snyder was called as a witness in federal court in Ann Arbor, two days after the Michigan Supreme Court in a separate case […]
8 hours ago
FILE - A dog walker passes a quiet Buckingham Palace, in London, March 23, 2021. Royal accounts sho...
Associated Press

UK royals’ spending up 17%, mostly for palace overhaul costs

LONDON (AP) — The British monarchy’s publicly-funded spending rose by 17% to 102.4 million pounds ($124 million) in the past year, with the renovation of Buckingham Palace taking up a large part of the expenses, royal accounts published Thursday showed. The palace’s annual Sovereign Grant report showed that royal spending went up by 14.9 million […]
8 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Railroad talks stall, so Biden likely to pick review board