US faces national rail freight strike

Published date23 November 2022
Publication titleIrish Times (Dublin, Ireland)
The United States is facing the prospect of a national rail freight strike next month after members of a key union rejected a deal over employment contract and terms

Disruption to the movement of goods across the country could have a significant impact on the US economy. Some estimates have suggested that a strike could cost $2 billion (€1.95 billion) a day. There are also fears that a strike could exacerbate inflationary pressures in the US economy and drive up the price of food and fuel.

Passengers could also be affected as many commuter services operate over tracks that are owned by freight rail companies. If a dispute is not averted in further talks, the US Congress could intervene and impose a settlement.

About 51 per cent of members of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (Smart) voted to reject a proposed new five-year collective bargaining agreement. The union represents 28,000 conductors, brakemen and others.

The White House had been closely involved in drawing up the proposed deal in September in a bid to avoid industrial chaos in advance of the midterm elections. US president Joe Biden had praised the proposals at the time as a win for both sides and the economy.

A number of other unions representing rail workers have accepted the proposed new agreement. However, if rail conductors represented by the Smart union go on strike, they are unlikely to pass pickets.

The key sticking issue for the rail workers would appear to be points-based attendance...

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