Shipping and Logistics

Rail Labor Negotiations Remain Open, Strike Still Possible

Written by Becca Moczygemba

The potential for a rail strike still remains after the results of union votes were announced on Nov. 21.

While members of the SMART yardmasters and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) voted to accept their proposed labor deals, members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD) voted to reject their proposed labor contract.

BLET and SMART-TD issued a joint statement that noted, “Under the provisions of the Railway Labor Act, the labor law for workers employed by railroads and airlines, contracts don’t generally expire, they become amendable. After the unions filed their Section 6 notices with the NCCC in November 2019, talks began in January 2020.”

In the same press release, SMART-TD president Jeremy Ferguson expressed a desire to reach a settlement through negotiations and avoid a strike. “A settlement would be in the best interest of the workers, the railroads, shippers, and the American people,” stated Ferguson.

A rail strike could create a potentially difficult situation for the steel industry. As everyone is keeping a watchful eye on the drought and river situation, another hurdle in transportation options would put a kink in the supply chain.

“We’re watching rail negotiations closely, but I don’t think Congress will allow the supply chain to shut down. What’s happening now is like what we’ve seen with the longshoremen on the West Coast. Companies are reporting record profits, so we expected the negotiations to be tough,” Anton Posner, CEO of logistics management company Mercury Resources, told SMU.

We asked SMU survey participants if they were concerned about a potential rail strike and here’s how they responded:

Rail Strike 1122

 A status quo agreement between SMART-TD and management is currently in effect until Dec. 8, after which SMART-TD members would be permitted to go on strike.

By Becca Moczygemba,

Becca Moczygemba

Read more from Becca Moczygemba

Latest in Shipping and Logistics

CRU: Baltimore bridge collapse affects more than half of US thermal coal exports

A container ship collided with the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore on March 26, causing it to collapse. This has blocked sea lanes into and out of Baltimore port, which is the largest source of US seaborne thermal coal exports. The port usually exports 1–1.5 million metric tons (mt) of thermal coal per month. It is uncertain when sea shipping will be restored. But it could be several weeks or more. There are coal export terminals in Virginia, though diversion to these ports would raise costs.