The tentative deal that averted a strike by freight railroad workers takes the next step on Thursday as the unions involved begin voting on whether to accept it.
There seems to be opposition as some rail workers remain unhappy with working conditions.
Some protested outside their workplaces Wednesday.
Pickets sprung up outside rail yards across the country organized by a newly formed workers group separate from the 12 unions that negotiated the deals last week with the major U.S. freight railroads.
The protesters expressed dissatisfaction with the deals, just as the unions are trying to explain the potential benefits they negotiated to their roughly 115,000 members ahead of contract votes.
The contract talks included Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, BNSF, CSX, Kansas City Southern and a number of other railroads, so the entire country would have been affected by a strike.
Fears of a rail strike that could cripple all kinds of businesses that rely on railroads to deliver raw materials and finished goods prompted the Biden administration to jump into the middle of the contract talks and urge both sides to reach an agreement.
Nearly a dozen BNSF workers gathered near Minot, North Dakota, Wednesday with homemade signs declaring “We demand more!!” and “We will not back down.”
Another group of a half dozen workers stood outside their worksite in Olathe, Kansas, with signs saying “Railroad greed driving inflation” and “Greedy railroads harming nations supply chain.”
Workers’ concerns about time off and demanding attendance policies at the railroads took center stage in the negotiations.
In the five-year deal, the unions that represent engineers and conductors secured a promise of three extra unpaid days off for workers to attend doctors’ appointments without being penalized and improved scheduling of days off to go with the 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses.
It remains to be seen whether those concessions are enough to get workers to vote for these deals.
|UNP||UNION PACIFIC CORP.||211.79||-1.49||-0.70%|
|NSC||NORFOLK SOUTHERN CORP.||227.96||-1.59||-0.69%|
Nine of the unions will be counting their votes at various times over the next two months.
The two biggest unions that held out the longest aren’t expected to report the results of their votes until mid November.
That puts any potential for a strike out beyond the midterm elections, which mitigates the potential political impact of the talks for Biden and the Democrats.
If any of the unions do reject their contracts, Congress could still be forced to step in.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.