A railroad workers strike could be looming

November 22 – When a negotiated contract between railroad workers and management came out in early September, it seemed as though a strike had been averted. 

But when the votes came out in the unions on the contract, the sense of relief was short-lived. 

Two of the biggest railroad workers unions voted yesterday whether to approve the contract – one of them said yes, the other said no. 

Unanimous approval of all 12 unions is needed to ratify the contract. So far eight have said yes and four have said no. 

If agreement can’t be reached, the railroad workers have said they will strike on December 9. 

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “I’m increasingly concerned about this. I would absolutely cripple the US economy.”

The rail unions are saying they’re going to keep negotiating.

Barkdoll said, “Congress may still get involved, although the unions are warning Congress, stay out of this, this is our affair. You shouldn’t step in and override it. I’m not sure what Congress would do here. If we get on the verge of the strike, right before the holidays and this would just cripple the economy, it seems like Congress may have to take action, but we know that unions are very powerful and they might have the traction to keep this out of Congress, so let’s hope this doesn’t happen. We need to be watching this very closely now over the next two weeks.”

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “I’m so frustrated by this. I’m sorry, why is no one asking for accountability from the unions? They support all the policies and the politicians who have led us to the difficulty with hiring and all of this and now they want to take advantage of that by insisting on these lifestyle improvements after they just got the biggest raise I think in all of their history, retroactive increases back to 2020, unbelievable healthcare deals, where there won’t be any raises to what they pay for health care. This was a sweetheart deal negotiated by a presidential administration desperate to do well before the midterms. We’ve been lied to again because Biden very much came out and said oh look, we’ve averted this terribly thing, we’re so great, vote for us. No, they didn’t. I think the unions knew perfectly well they weren’t going to allow this to go through smoothly and that they would take advantage of the situation we’re in now, again, by the policies and politicians they supported. Let us break your legs and then hand you crutches. Once again. Shame on them for even thinking of doing this to the country in the dire economic predicament we’re in right now. Shame on them for oh we want a few more days off. Oh, we want to make it even more difficult for our employers to have reliable, scheduled people because we can just take off any time we want for a medical thing is what they want. I’m disgusted by the lack of accountability from the unions and their workers.” 

Congressman John Joyce said, “We need to keep our railroads running. It’s essential for Pennsylvania 13. The Biden administration certainly hasn’t shown the ability to get anything done. This is an area where Americans cannot afford to have supply chains break down because they are not delivered by rail, especially with inflation already at record levels.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “And the president could just step right in here and say you’ve got to work. We’ll negotiate it, but he could put the hammer down and say you can’t go on strike, right?” 

“It needs Congressional action,” Barkdoll said. “Yes, he certainly could pressure Congress to do that. Yes, they’re in their lame duck session. Whether the votes would be there to do it or not remains to be seen.” 

The contract includes a 24 percent pay raise over five years. That’s in addition to a $5,000 bonus and additional time off. 

That’s what’s been rejected by four of the unions. 

Reporting is they are asking for even more paid time off as part of the contract. 

Barkdoll pointed out, “At some point, railroad management is going to reach its own breaking point. I mean there’s only so much they can give here until this is simply not sustainable from an economical profitability standpoint. So this is a real mess we have on our hands.” 

Ryan said, “It would be nice to see a Reagan moment. Somebody grow a backbone and say, you know what? Fine. Hit the bricks.” 

Jansen noted, “But there’s nobody to hire. That’s the problem. We’ve made our country so lazy and entitled.” 

Ryan said, “What’s the dollar? What’s the number they’re getting paid an hour?”

Barkdoll said, “It varies greatly by position, but these are very well-paying jobs. These are jobs that are easily into the minimum of $40,000 to $50,000 a year, plus all of these Cadillac benefits, but the hiring is an issue.” 

Just yesterday Rutters (for the second time this year) raised their minimum wage to $17 an hour. That’s more than $36,000 a year. 

Barkdoll said, “They’re saying we have to just keep pushing it up because we’re having trouble hiring people to keep our stores open.” 

Ryan said, “I talked to my 85-year-old Mom yesterday. She retired and she’s bored, so she wants to go work as a part time librarian. A part time librarian pays $18 an hour in upstate New York. I was surprised by that and she had to sit in front of four people for a part time librarian job. Four people. I’m like are you kidding me? You don’t have anything better to do? She’s clearly over-qualified.” 

Jansen pointed out, “Let’s remember here, though, they’re going to say see? We’ve made unemployment so low. No. You’ve made 7 million men between the ages of 18 and 64 leave the workforce. Able bodied men who don’t want to work. You are giving us the ideology and the policies that are turning people into people who do not want to work for a living. So then the ones that do, of course, have the advantage. Oh, there’s not a lot of people? Oh give me more, give me more. The employers can only handle that up to a certain point and then they’re going to wonder why we have AI coming in and automating all of our jobs.” 

Twitter is another example of this. When Elon Musk, who purchased the company, told employees he wanted everyone back in the office, hundreds and hundreds of them just walked. 

Barkdoll said, “They know they’ll be able to land somewhere else and that’s the problem in some of these cases like with this rail case we’re discussing and even the convenience stores. The labor market is so tight right now, employers are placed in a very difficult situation.”