Wage and Benefit Negotiations Move Forward Between Railways and Unions

Underway for over three years now, negotiations between the railways and unionized rail workers have made huge strides in recent weeks.

According to a press release from the National Railway Labor Conference (NRLC), tentative agreements have been reached between the railroads and four more rail unions, the Brotherhood Railway Carmen (BRC), the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), and the Transportation Communications Union (TCU). Now subject to membership ratification, this most recent round of agreements will serve over 31,000 employees, with contract terms covering wages, benefits and various other issues.

With the addition of these four unions, the railroads have now reached agreements with 116,000 employees, which amounts to around 80% of the 145,000 employees included in the negotiations. Four other unions, the American Train Dispatchers Association, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division, have already ratified agreements with the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC).

The NCCC represents more than 30 railroads, including Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern. According to A. Kenneth Gradia, Chairman of the NCCC, “These new agreements, which follow the terms established in the earlier agreements, bring us closer to the resolution of negotiations with all the unions.” Rumblings of a potential rail strike, which hasn’t occurred since 1991, have been almost entirely snuffed with these recent talks. According to Frank N. Wilner of RailwayAge, “The ratified contract, which is still on the table for the unions that have yet to settle, puts at least $33,000 more into the pockets of the highest paid rail workers within just two years and more than $16,000 by mid-2019 to those in the lower wage rungs. And there is not a single work rules change.”

Contracts are still to be worked out with the third labor coalition consisting of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, and the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, which represents the final 20% of workers up this bargaining round.

Odyssey will provide updates as the situation progresses further.