Reported by Dani Romero for Yahoo Finance.
Rail workers across the country were set to walk off the job on July 18 before President Joe Biden intervened, the latest development in a contentious saga that has been brewing for years.
In an executive order signed on July 15, Biden established an emergency three-person board of arbitrators to work with the freight railways and their 115,000 workers to hammer out a contract that has been under negotiations since January 2020.
“The president’s goal is to make sure America’s freight rail system continues to run without disruption, delivering the items that our families, communities, farms, and businesses rely on,” the White House stated in a press release.
That action from POTUS came after one union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, which is leading a coalition of 10 rail unions in negotiations, voted to authorize a strike after their wage demands were not being met.
“I wish we could have gotten an agreement earlier in the process,” Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz said on Yahoo Finance Live this week. “But the railroads and the union leadership are pretty far apart right now in terms of what we think is an appropriate settlement on wages.”
The three-member board will have to investigate and get back to Biden in 30 days with its findings. If the railroads can’t agree, Congress will likely have to step in by voting to impose terms or taking other action.
The main sticking points for the new contract revolve around wages and benefits.
“I think if you look at the opening proposals that both sides came with, I think the unions have moved quite a bit, actually, “AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Greg Regan told Yahoo Finance on Friday. “The railroads have not.”
A spokesperson for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen told Yahoo Finance that the union is prepared to make their case to the board of arbitrators to argue that raises “are more than warranted.”
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