Railroad union votes to authorize strike that could hammer economy

Negotiations between railroad companies, other unions are ongoing

One of the unions representing rail workers said Wednesday that its members rejected a proposed deal with rail carriers and voted to move forward with a strike that could have severe consequences for the U.S. economy.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers issued a statement saying that roughly 4,900 of its members turned down the tentative agreement with the National Carriers' Conference Committee (NCCC) representing railroads, but noted that they would hold off on striking for at least a few weeks while other unions continue their talks.

A BNSF train pulls out of yard

A BNSF rail terminal worker monitors the departure of a freight train, on June 15, 2021, in Galesburg, Ill. (AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar, File) ((AP Photo/Shafkat Anowar, File) / AP Newsroom)

"The Tentative Agreement has been rejected and the strike authorization vote was approved by IAM District 19 members," IAM District 19 said in a statement. "Out of respect for other unions in the ratification process, an extension has been agreed to until Sept. 29, 2022 at 12 p.m. ET. This extension will allow us to continue to negotiate changes with the NCCC in the hopes of achieving an agreement our membership would ratify."

"IAM freight rail members are skilled professionals who have worked in difficult conditions through a pandemic to make sure essential products get to their destinations," the statement continued. 


"We look forward to continuing that vital work with a fair contract that ensures our members and their families are treated with the respect they deserve for keeping America’s goods and resources moving through the pandemic. The IAM is grateful for the support of those working toward a solution as our members and freight rail workers seek equitable agreements."

A freight train parked in rail yard

In this July 27, 2015, file photo, a BNSF Railway Company train is parked in Seattle.  ((AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File) / AP Newsroom)

IAM is one of four unions that remain holdouts on the deal put forth by the presidential emergency board (PEB) appointed by President Biden. Another eight rail unions have agreed to the plan.


Two other major rail unions signaled over the weekend that they would not sign on without further concessions from railroads. The leaders of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) Teamsters Rail Conference issued a joint statement Sunday saying that the PEB proposal does not go far enough to improve working conditions for members.

joe biden marty walsh

President Biden and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh attend a Labor Day visit to United Steelworkers of America Local Union 2227 in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 5, 2022. Biden and Walsh are both involved in talks aimed at avoiding a rail strike. ( (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

The Biden administration is currently involved in the negotiations to avert a strike, which the Association of American Railroads (AAR) says would cost upward of $2 billion per day, hurting businesses and consumers alike.


If a deal is not reached by the deadline, Congress is expected to get involved to stop any shutdown. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Wednesday that she is now engaged with the White House and unions in an effort to avoid a strike, adding that she would rather see a negotiated settlement than action from Congress.