OMAHA, Neb. — Another union has approved the deal it made with the major freight railroads last month that helped prevent a strike to secure 24 percent raises and $5,000 in bonuses for the workers it represents.
The American Train Dispatchers Association said Tuesday that 64 percent of its roughly 1,600 members approved the deal with Union Pacific, BNSF, Kansas City Southern, CSX, Norfolk Southern and other railroads. The union said dispatchers will receive an average payout of $17,500 when the five-year deal becomes final because it is retroactive to 2020.
Four smaller railroad unions have now approved their deals with the railroads, but the two biggest unions that represent engineers and conductors won’t vote on their tentative agreements until mid-November. All 12 unions that represent some 115,000 workers have to approve these deals to prevent a strike, but much of the attention is focused on the engineers and conductors because they have some of the biggest concerns about schedules and working conditions.
Those two unions have said that the strict attendance policies some railroads have put in place after the industry cut nearly one-third of its jobs over the past six years make it difficult to take any time off and keep workers on call 24-7.
But even if one of the rail unions does reject their deal now, there won’t automatically be a strike because both sides have agreed to allow some time to return to the table if a deal does fail to get approved.
Most of the deals the rail unions are voting on closely follow the recommendations that a special board of arbitrators that President Joe Biden appointed made this summer to help resolve the contract dispute that began nearly three years ago. The administration put pressure on both sides to reach agreements before the Sept. 16 strike deadline because of concerns about how a strike might cripple the economy.
In addition to what that board recommended, the unions that represent engineers and conductors — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers unions — also negotiated to get three unpaid leave days for medical appointments and a promise that workers won’t be penalized if they are hospitalized. The railroads also agreed to negotiate further with those unions about improving the scheduling of regular days off for workers.