The deal with unions representing more than 50,000 engineers and conductors was announced just after 5 a.m. in a statement from the White House, which it called an “important victory for our economy and the American people.”
A win for workers, railways and the economy
The deal gives union members an immediate 14% raise with a late pay dating back to 2020, and raises a total of 24% over the five-year contract period, running from 2020 through 2024. It also gives them cash bonuses of $1,000. general.
Few other details of the deal have been announced so far. But Biden’s statement indicated that the main issue that brought the country within a day of the first national rail strike in 30 years had been addressed in favor of unions.
“It is a victory for the tens of thousands of railroad workers who have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that American families and communities have deliveries that keep us going through these difficult years,” Biden said in a statement. “These railroad workers will have better salaries, improved working conditions, and peace of mind about health care costs: all of this is their hard earned.”
The dispute was over staffing and scheduling rules that union leaders said had brought their membership to the breaking point. Unions say the railways are asking their members to be “on call” and to be ready to come to work on short notice, seven days a week. The leadership of the two unions said their members would not accept a contract without changes to those work rules.
Biden described the deal as “a victory also for the railroad companies that will be able to retain and hire more workers in an industry that will continue to be a part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”
It’s an important victory for Biden, who has faced nothing but bad choices if no deal is reached. Support for the Congressional action that the business community sought to impose a contract on workers would have angered his supporters among unions. Letting downtime lead to dire economic consequences ahead of the midterm elections.
How did we get here
It also imposed a 60-day cooling-off period during which unions could not strike and management could not close workers. The cooling-off period was due to end early Friday.
Biden could not have ordered railroads to continue operating once the cooling-off period ended on Friday. Congress could only act to bring unions back to work if a strike had begun.
With a wide range of business groups calling on Congress to act, Republicans prepared legislation that would give the railroad management the deal they wanted. But Democrats opposed such action.
A union source said Democrats’ refusal to side with the administration was key to the talks.
“The Senate leadership that did not act gave space to these negotiations,” the union source said. He said Walsh “clung to” the union during the negotiations.
“It was work yesterday,” he said, with plenty of back and forth.
“Our people will not give up,” the source said. “Our people would have been struck” if no agreement had been reached by Friday’s deadline.
The American Railroad Association also praised the deal and thanked the Biden administration and the unions themselves for their role in reaching an agreement.
The wage and bonus increases had been recommended by a presidential committee tasked with trying to find a solution to the impasse in negotiations at the time.
Those terms were lucrative enough for most rail unions to agree to tentative deals in recent weeks, and engineers and conductors, faced with working and scheduling rules that didn’t apply to others, refused to sign without easing on the scheduling issue. .