The talks were still underway 18 hours later at 3 a.m. ET Thursday, a Labor Department spokesman told CNN.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One on Wednesday that “all parties need to stay at the table, bargain in good faith to resolve outstanding issues and come to an agreement. A shutdown of our freight rail system is unacceptable outcome for our economy and the American people, and all parties must work to avoid just that.”
The Labor Department asked both management and labor not to comment on the state of the talks, and neither responded to a request for comment.
The railroads announced last Friday that they had stopped accepting shipments of hazardous material, including fertilizer, as well as security-related materials, due to concerns that trains will immediately stop wherever they are once the strike begins. On Wednesday many stopped accepting shipments of agricultural products.
“We’ll have some capability. Not a very good capability, but we’ll have some if it comes to that,” Norfolk Southern spokesman Connor Spielmaker told CNN Business Wednesday. “How we’re going to utilize them is still being planned out.”
Spielmaker said the railroads still hope to reach a deal with the unions and avert such a situation. Freight railroads CSX, BNSF and Union Pacific declined to say if they’ll be using management employees to operate trains in the event of a strike.
The threat of the strike could snarl commutes across the country. Many Amtrak and local commuter trains travel on railways owned by freight companies. If striking engineers park their trans midroute Friday morning, commutes could be disrupted. Amtrak on Wednesday said it canceled all long-distance trains starting Thursday, and it announced 10 additional routes would be shut down Thursday evening. Amtrak said additional delays or cancellations are possible.
Strike threat has White House under pressure
Fight not over wages
The PEB’s recommendations called for workers to get an immediate 14% pay raise, plus back pay dating back to 2020. It also called for a 24% increase in pay during the five-year life of the contract from 2020 to 2024, and cash bonuses of $1,000 a year.
But it did not address the staffing shortages and scheduling rules that have become the key sticking point in the dispute. The engineers’ and conductors’ unions say the railroads are requiring their members to be “on call” and ready to report to work on short notice as often as seven days a week. Leadership of the two unions say their members would not accept a contract without changes to those work rules.
There are more than 50,000 other unions members at the railroads who maintain tracks, operate signals, dispatch trains and work as mechanics, among other jobs. But they are not subject to the same work rules, and those unions already accepted tentative deals with the railroads based on the PEB’s recommendations.
One of those unions, the Machinists, announced Wednesday that its members voted to reject its tentative labor deal. There are about 5,000 members of the union at the railroads working as locomotive machinists, track equipment mechanics and facility maintenance personnel.
Their rejection of the proposed contract is not an immediate setback in efforts to avoid the strike. The union said it will not go on strike before the end of the month, as it tries to reach a change in the tentative agreement that its members will accept. But it is a sign of the complexity the railroads are facing in reaching deals with a dozen different unions that are also acceptable to rank-and-file membership.
Two other unions, the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen and the Transportation Communications Union, which between them have 11,000 members, ratified deals on Wednesday.
— CNN’s Matt McFarland, Ali Zaslav, Kate Sullivan, Phil Mattingly, Maegan Vazquez and Andrew Millman contributed to this report
#Talks #avert #crippling #rail #strike #continue #overnight