A Railroad Strike Will Break Our Supply Chain

A Railroad Strike Will Break Our Supply Chain

A Railroad Strike Will Break Our Supply Chain

If all continues as they planned, railroad workers will go on strike THIS FRIDAY. Yes, you read that correctly. A major strike has been brewing under the radar among railroad workers around the country.

President Biden made calls to union leaders and rail companies Monday, pressing for a deal to avert a national railroad strike that is days away from shutting down much of the country’s transportation infrastructure, according to a White House official.

Biden administration officials have also started preparing for a potential shutdown, warning a strike could seriously damage the U.S. economy, as well as hurt Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Biden’s calls follow unsuccessful emergency meetings at the White House last week, which have been led by the White House National Economic Council and included Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is also involved in trying to broker the impasse, said the two people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about internal deliberations. 

What just a minute! We were just treated to a massive tone-deaf garden party sing-along with James Taylor in which Team Biden insists there’s no inflation, it’s just our imagination! But now we are told a strike could damage the economy? 

Just as with the truckers, it is the RAILROADS that move massive amounts of goods and services around the country. In fact, railroads move nearly 54 tons of goods and services annually PER American. What do they move in addition to coal? How about car parts, cars, construction materials, metals, minerals, grain, fruit, paper and lumber. The list is long. Yet, on Friday, if something doesn’t get resolved, railroads will come to a screeching halt. This is of such significant concern that even commuter and passenger trains are being affected. 

Amtrak announced Monday it is pre-emptively canceling some long distance trips, mostly out of Chicago, ahead of a possible freight railroad strike later this week.

Starting Tuesday, Amtrak said service would be suspended on the Southwest Chief (Chicago to Los Angeles), the Empire Builder (Chicago to Minneapolis to Spokane to Portland/Seattle), the California Zephyr (Chicago to Denver to San Francisco) and the Los Angeles to San Antonio Train #421 portion of the Texas Eagle routes.

Want the imaginary inflation to get even worse? Let’s have our economic output come to a screeching halt when an industry that moves 30% of goods and services shuts down. 

There are two unions holding out on the talks and refusing to come to an agreement. Evidently, the pay proposal isn’t quite enough. 

The Presidential Emergency Board proposed a 24% pay raise, gradually increasing until 2024. The AAR stated that the recommended changes would result in more than $11,000 per employee on average if ratified.

“President Biden’s PEB issued recommendations that should set the framework for a negotiated agreement between railroads and unions,” AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies said in the statement. “The recommendations would provide 24% compounded wage increases by 2024, with 14.1% of those increases effective immediately, along with additional service recognition bonuses totaling $5,000 over the course of the contract. An agreement based on these terms would lead to the largest general wage increase in nearly 40 years.”

The largest wage increase in 40 years? That’s nothing to sneeze at, but still not quite satisfactory. Furthermore, there are other issues concerning the proposals. 

Yes, there’s a significant issue with what the railroad companies are refusing to budge on. 

But the remaining two unions, who represent 57,000 workers slated to strike, are angry the recommendations don’t address a lack of sick days or attendance policies that penalize workers. Engineers and conductors face penalties for taking any time off, including weekends, outside of holidays and preplanned vacation, even in the case of emergencies.

Labor groups say workers have been fired for going to routine doctor’s appointments or family members’ funerals. Conductors and engineers can be on call for 14 consecutive days, for up to 12 hours daily. They also don’t get sick days.

I can’t think of any other industry that has its workforce be on call for that many days in a row, nor for a full 12 hours. Wouldn’t that be a bit of a safety issue?? Secondly, aren’t there you know, LAWS about providing sick leave and vacation days? But there is more to it than just sick leave policies. This is a problem that has been brewing for quite some time, and Covid had a significant impact on operations as well. 

This is absolutely the LAST thing this country needs! Want to see higher prices at the grocery stores? If the strike DOES happen on Friday, we will be in a world of hurt when it comes to getting produce and other food products onto the grocery store shelves. Building a home? You’d better hope that everything is already in place otherwise the schedule just got pushed out and costs will go higher. 

Be worried folks. Because that railroad strike will decimate our supply chain in a split second. You can damned well bet that, instead of owning up to their part in it, the Biden team will point the fingers of blame at both the railroad companies and the employees. 

UPDATE: A deal has been reached at essentially the 11th hour. 

The agreement, hashed out as a national rail strike loomed at midnight on Friday, will raise rail employees salaries 24 percent from the period from 2020 to 2024, with workers getting an average lump sum payment of $11,000 for the backdated portion of the raise, according to a group representing rail companies. 

Biden called the deal ‘a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that America’s families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years.’

The devil is in the details however. This seems like a big raise. However, given today’s inflation, it isn’t quite as significant as it would’ve been in the past. Also, are the issues of sick leave, hospital visits, funerals, etc being addressed in this deal? The union membership still has to vote on this, so keep an eye out on this situation. We aren’t out of the woods yet. 

Welcome Instapundit Readers!

Feature Photo Credit: Burlington Northern freight train via Flickr, cropped and modified

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  • Bill says:

    Eff all labor unions!

    • Cameron says:

      Normally I am inclined to agree with that statement. But if people are getting fired for doctor’s appointments and funerals, that crap needs to stop now.

      • Micha Elyi says:

        Commies lie, labor union bosses exaggerate.

        I suspect Putin’s Ruzzia has a hand in this threatened railroad strike.

        • John says:

          I’ve read long detailed and well-reasoned comments from rail workers on other sites, and the abuses are pretty bad. Unions exist because of bad management. Eventually their own managers go bad. But abusive management is a thing.

  • cthulhu says:

    Another major issue is Precision Scheduled Railroading — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precision_railroading — where railroads pick up efficiency at the direct cost of employee fatigue.

    If there were a “Precision Staffing Railroading” that matched, the overall efficiency might improve along with employee satisfaction — but, being bound into work rules from previous union contracts, the current situation for workers is miserable.

  • Cameron says:

    Long past time the Administration figured out who the essential personnel in this world are.

  • fastrichard says:

    As a truck driver I have been subject to similar long hours and limited time off. Transportation is covered under different labor laws than the rest of the economy. For truck drivers there are maximum legal hours enforced by the D.O.T. These legal maximums are generally treated by employers as goals to be met rather than maximums to be avoided. From what I know of railroading, the companies have the same mindset. extract as much labor from each employee as they can, with no regard for employee’s health or personal lives.

    • Micha Elyi says:

      Hey fastrichard, like you the railroaders can quit their overpaid jobs and take up something much less stressful such as flipping burgers.

  • S says:

    A concern of mine is that if the strike occurs, a LOT of Hazmat materials will be added to our road traffic. My husband used to be a train conductor, and he often noted the sheer volume of toxic, deadly materials he transported would scare the bejeezus out of most people. If those chemicals are no longer being transported via train, they might end up being transported on highways instead–in close proximity to stupid drivers who don’t know how to give 18 wheelers the space they need to drive safely. Increased accidents with deadly results are bound to happen, but I pray they aren’t.

  • Dietrich says:

    I’m not concerned, pull-a-supply chain Trans Sec Pete Buttgigger is on the case.

    • Cameron says:

      “Mr. Secretary, we need this crisis resolved. What can we do?”
      “I’m Gay!!”
      sigh “Yes, sir. We know that.”
      “That didn’t solve the problem?”
      “Well, that’s all I have. Ah well.”

  • John says:

    You need to check your numbers. ” In fact, railroads move nearly 54 tons of goods and services annually PER American.”?

    Try nearly 20 BILLION tons in 2020. https://www.aar.org/facts-figures

  • Tim says:

    Not normally a big union fan, but in this case they have legitimate grievances that the RRs will not address. They need to replace the 10% or more of employees they laid off, and develop more rational policies for engineers and conductors that are not completely nuts.

  • GWB says:

    will raise rail employees salaries 24 percent from the period from 2020 to 2024
    HOLEY FOOK! That’s not just a large raise, it’s an MONSTROUSLY LARGE one! Yeah, some of it is backdated, but it works out to 6% per year. I’m considered a top performer and haven’t gotten anything over 4% in the last 10 years.

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