Dec 2, 2011 “With only four days to go, the agreements late in the evening of Dec. 1st with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the American Train Dispatchers Association came just hours after Republican House leaders threatened emergency legislation. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-V.a) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) issued a statement that said if a group of unions representing parts of the freight rail industry do not reach a labor agreement before the deadline, they would vote on legislation to prevent the unions from going on strike.
These developments came in conjunction with the National Retail Federation’s letter to Congress asking lawmakers to be prepared to step in during the retail industry’s most important shopping season of the year. For retailers, a strike during the busy holiday shopping season could be devastating, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay told members of the House and Senate. It is imperative that Congress recognize the severe economic harm threatened by the failure to reach agreement with the remaining rail unions and move quickly to prevent a rail strike that would prove devastating to both businesses and consumers.
In an interesting side development, the nation’s trucking carriers have experienced a late-year business boost, due to precautionary measures from retailers moving freight originally assigned to rail to road transport.
With the help of federal mediators appointed by President Barack Obama, the railroads have now settled with 12 of the 13 unions in the current bargaining round. The only unsettled union is the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, which has about 25,000 workers. Negotiators are expected to try and reach an agreement with the last union holdouts before Feb. 8, 2012.
The board proposals this month were intended to prevent a walkout that financial experts estimated would cost the U.S. economy as much as $2 billion a day.