Shipper groups are pressing Congress to step in to avert a potential nationwide strike next week, with one warning the disruption of rail service “during the busy holiday shopping season could be devastating.”
The two unions representing dispatchers and locomotive engineers could go strike Dec. 6 after a 30-day “cooling” off period expires. The major U.S. freight railroads have reached contract agreements with 10 of the 13 unions, and the 11th union, representing maintenance workers, has agreed to extend its deadline until Feb. 10.
“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,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay wrote House and Senate members.
The National Industrial Transportation League said a strike could have an impact of $2 billion a day on the national economy. The group urged Congress last week to apply the terms of a recently appointed President Emergency Board if rail management and the unions fail to come to an accord. President Obama's team offered new recommendations on contract terms on Nov. 5, triggering the countdown toward labor action if an agreement isn't struck.
"The nation ... cannot be without vital rail service for even one day," NITL President and CEO Bruce Carlton said in a letter to congressional leaders.
A rail strike or lockout could would disrupt supply chains and destroy jobs, the railroads said. The Class I railroads in the bargaining group include Union Pacific Railroad, BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern and Kansas City Southern Railway.