The union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District 19, is one of the 10 labor organizations that were in negotiations with the NCCC to prevent a threatened strike that would affect the entire rail system of the United States, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The rejection of the agreement, which was based on a proposal from an advisory council established by the White House, increases the likelihood of a strike that could cripple segments of the U.S. economy.
In a statement on the union website, the IAM wrote, “The Tentative Agreement has been rejected and the strike authorization vote was approved by IAM District 19 members. Out of respect for other unions in the ratification process, an extension has been agreed to until Sept. 29, 2022, at 12 p.m. ET. This extension will allow us to continue to negotiate changes with the NCCC in the hopes of achieving an agreement our membership would ratify.”
According to CNN Business, after they were unable to reach an agreement on Tuesday, the heads of the IAM and the railroads’ bargaining team were to meet with Labor Secretary Martin Walsh early in the day.
Shortly after 12 p.m. EDT, the union announced the rejection tweeting, “IAM District 19 freight rail members are skilled professionals who have worked in difficult conditions through a pandemic to make sure essential products get to their destinations.”
The union has given an extension until noon Sept. 29 for a tentative agreement to be ratified by its members. According to CNN, a Labor Department spokesman said on Wednesday that the unions and railroad officials are “negotiating in good faith” and “committed to staying at the table.”
However, the unions are scheduled to being a strike starting at 12:01 a.m. Friday if no agreement is reached. CNN reported that according to an estimate from the Association of American Railroads, a rail strike would cost the American economy an estimated $2 billion per day.
“The cost will grow geometrically the longer the strike lasts,” said Patrick Anderson, of Anderson Economic Group, according to CNN. “After a week, you’d see real damage in the US economy.” He warned. “If we reach a week-long strike, we’re in uncharted territory.”
According to negotiators , the real sticking point between the two sides is not salaries but personnel policies.
“Members of IAM were concerned about railroads’ attendance policies that penalize them for taking unscheduled days off if they or a family member gets sick, a union official said,” the Journal reported.
Railroad management counters that companies have the right to establish policies governing work attendance and discipline.
The presidential advisory board “largely agreed” with the rail management about sick time issues, the Journal reported.
In a Twitter post Wednesday, CBS correspondent Skyler Henry wrote that “the clock is ticking as workers are threatening to strike starting Friday … A shutdown could further strain the supply chain.”
In a video included in Henry’s tweet, President Joe Biden is asked by a reporter if he had a comment on the rail negotiations. “No,” was his one-word response.
At a news briefing Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that the White House has “a contingency plan.”
“So we are working with other modes of transportation, including the shippers and truckers, air freight — air freight to see how they can step in and keep goods moving in case of this rail shutdown,” she said, according to a White House transcript.
“The administration has also been working with relevant agencies to assess what supply chains and commodities are most likely to face severe disruptions and available authorities to keep goods moving,” she continued, adding “So, again, we’re really working with and trying to figure out with other modes of transportation how to move forward.”✪