September 15, 2022
The Department of Labor has officially announced that thirteen rail unions and the nation’s largest rail carriers have reached a tentative agreement, after negotiations went into the early hours of Thursday morning. Although the agreement will prevent an immediate strike, this deal will still need to be voted on by members of the rail worker unions. The tentative contract agreement includes more paid time off, time off for medical appointments and pay raises, among other proposals. This announcement comes after an ongoing contract standoff between railroad companies and workers that could have led to a strike if a deal was not reached by Thursday evening. Several officials had been working to prevent a disruption, including Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and senior White House officials. Though most of the thirteen rail worker unions had reached an agreement with the railroad companies, two unions representing engineers and conductors had rejected a compromise deal proposed earlier this year.
As part of the tentative deal, both sides have agreed to a “cooling-off” period that will last several weeks to ensure that if a vote on the agreement fails, there will be adequate time to prevent an immediate shutdown. In anticipation of a potential strike, several freight and passenger services had already begun suspending time-sensitive operations across the country. A strike this large would have left around 7,000 trains unstaffed and hindered grain transportation during this season’s harvest.
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