House approves temporary labor deal, sends to Senate

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A train employee works in the Union Pacific Intermodal Terminal rail yard on November 21, 2022 in Los Angeles, California.

Mario Tama | Good pictures

The House on Wednesday passed legislation that would force a temporary railroad labor contract and break a national strike. The bill now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DNY., has promised swift passage.

A separate House referendum agreement added seven days of paid sick leave.

The resolution, which passed by a 290-137 vote, came after President Joe Biden called on Congress to intervene in stalled talks between the railroads and some of the industry’s major unions. He He met with four House and Senate leaders on Tuesday Trying to avoid the economic effects of a rail strike, the industry estimates, costs the U.S. economy $2 billion a day.

Biden said some unions were reluctant to ignore the vote against the deal, but said a rail shutdown would be “devastating” to the economy.

The railways and their unions have until December 9 to reach an agreement before workers can commit to a strike. The extent of paid sick leave available to railway employees is problematic.

In a statement Tuesday, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters’ Brotherhood of Wayworkers division said enacting legislation to enforce a contract denies them the right to strike and would not address the problems or concerns of railroad workers.

The union called on Biden and “any Congress that truly supports the working class to act quickly on passing any reforms and regulations that would provide paid sick leave to all railroad workers.”

According to the Association of American Railroads (AAR), an industry group, a presidential panel created to help resolve contract negotiations reviewed the union’s request for additional paid sick days and instead awarded additional salary.

“If unions are interested in a full discussion of structural changes related to their sick time, I think rail carriers would be open to a full discussion. [they] It’s not done in zero time,” AAR President and CEO Ian Jeffries said at a press conference on rail products.

According to the National Railway Labor Conference, each union has its own sick day policy. If an employee is sick, they must be out of work for four to seven days to receive a version of sick pay.

Provisional Labor Agreement provides one additional personal day for workers and a total of three personal days for railway workers. A worker must provide 48 hours notice to request a personal day.

Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders took to social media to say the tentative deal didn’t go far enough.

A strike reduces product trading

Cory Rosenbush, president and CEO of The Fertilizer Institute, said that if a labor agreement is not reached, Dec. From 4, railway carriers have told their members that shipments of ammonia, a key component of fertilizer companies, will not be allowed in trains.

“Traditionally it takes five to seven days for the supply chain to catch up when you have a shutdown,” Rosenbusch said. Fertilizer production should be reduced.

Four major railroads typically move more than 80% of agricultural freight traffic, according to the National Grain and Forage Association.

“We are now looking for alternatives to sustain our product,” said Mike Seifert, president and CEO of the association. “Right now we have zero elasticity. There are zero drivers, and the barge situation with low water levels only adds to this challenge.”

The future of collective bargaining

Brendan Brannon, president of the National Railroad Workers Conference, told CNBC that Congress is also weighing the future of collective bargaining in voting on the labor agreement. He urged Congress to follow the recommendations of a presidential emergency board created by Biden in July to resolve the ongoing dispute between major freight rail carriers and unions.

The Board makes its recommendations under the principle of bargaining, the method used by unions and employers where demands and rights are made.

“Method bargaining promotes stability in collective bargaining, and it encourages settlement,” Brannon said. “Not only is it acceptable, but there are a number of arbitrators and PEBs who have recognized that it is the most appropriate format for resolving complex negotiations, particularly multi-employer, multi-craft contracts.”

Brannon said many industries, including railroads, have developed a clear set of procedures for bargaining and additional negotiation of unions after the tentative agreement departed from the PEB-recommended framework.

“Moving away from one method would establish a precedent that a better outcome is still achievable, and I think that would put significant pressure and risk on future collective bargaining for the railroad industry,” he said.


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