The threat of a national railroad labor action further receded, after a union representing maintenance of way employees joined the 12 other railroad unions in accepting a contract with major U.S. railroads.
Members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees on April 20 ratified an agreement with the major railroads with a vote of 7,189 to 6,623. Unions representing 132,000 freight rail workers now have voluntary contracts with the railroads.
“The completion of this final agreement underscores the continuing vitality of national collective bargaining in our industry and the effectiveness of the Railway Labor Act processes in helping the parties reach voluntary agreements,” said A. Kenneth Gradia, chairman of the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, the railroads’ bargaining representative.
BMWE National Division President Fred Simpsons said he was encouraged that the majority of the voting members “recognized that despite our disappointment with the health care package, this was a good solid contract.” The union represents 35,000 workers, who build, maintain and repair railroad tracks, bridges, buildings and equipment.
The ratification comes after shippers’ fears of a labor strike or work stoppage were ignited by the absence of contract ahead of the holiday season. Shippers’ fears were alleviated in early December after two unions struck a deal with the railroads and the BMWE agreed to extend a cooling-off period.