Third-largest rail union rejects deal, renewing possibility of strike
The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED), the third-largest railroad union in the U.S., has rejected a tentative deal with its employers, reviving the possibility of a strike in the vital railroad sector.
In a statement on Monday, BMWED announced that its membership rejected the tentative agreement with the Class I freight railroads, saying that union members are still upset about the poor working conditions and compensation details, among other issues.
“I trust that railroad management understands that sentiment as well. Railroaders are discouraged and upset with working conditions and compensation and hold their employer in low regard. Railroaders do not feel valued. They resent the fact that management holds no regard for their quality of life, illustrated by their stubborn reluctance to provide a higher quantity of paid time off, especially for sickness,” BMWED President Tony D. Cardwell said in a statement.
“The result of this vote indicates that there is a lot of work to do to establish goodwill and improve the morale that has been broken by the railroads’ executives and Wall Street hedge fund managers.”
Cardwell also said that union members are concerned with the direction of Class I freight railroads, arguing that mismanagement and greed from their companies have created the ongoing issues.
This comes after multiple railroad unions, such as Norfolk Southern, CSX, and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) reached an agreement with their companies last month to avoid a national strike that would have severely impacted the economy.
In a statement announcing that tentative agreement at the time, President Biden said that railroad workers deserve better compensation, and health care costs among other things, adding that they are “part of the backbone” of the United States.
There is no immediate risk of a strike, and the union has agreed to keep working for now.
“The rejection of the tentative agreement results in a ‘status quo’ period where the BMWED will reengage bargaining with the Class I freight carriers,” Cardwell added. “That status quo period will extend to 5 days after Congress reconvenes, which is currently set for Nov. 14. Assuming Congress returns to session on the 14th there could be no “self help” until after the 19th.”
Out of the 11,845 submitted ballots, 6,646 BMWED members voted against the tentative agreement, while 5,100 members voted to approve the tentative deal. Ninety-nine of the remaining ballots were submitted as blank or voided completely.