The National Retail Federation (NRF), the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and the Association of American Railroads (AAR) all welcomed President Joe Biden’s announcement July 15 that he had created via executive order a Presidential Emergency Board, effective July 18, to help resolve labor disputes between freight railroads and rail labor organizations, and stave off a strike. All face major business disruptions if a rail strike were to go ahead.
The announcement of the PEB, a form of federal mediation, blocks a potential strike by over 100,000 railroaders, which could have legally taken place as early as 12:01 AM on July 18, at the expiration of a 30-day “cooling off” period. Earlier in July, railroaders in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen voted by 99.5 percent to authorize strike action.
“NRF thanks President Biden for proactively working to address potential supply chain disruptions on our nation’s railways that would contribute to additional inflationary pressures,” said NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French. “Now that we are in the peak shipping season for back-to-school and winter holiday merchandise, it is critical that both parties come back to the table to reach an agreement without any kind of rail service disruption this fall.”
American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear added, “In order to move past our supply chain challenges and reduce the inflationary pressure that’s hurting American families, we must continue to steer clear of the kinds of avoidable, unnecessary disruptions to the movement of freight that this strike would have caused.”
Spear said the Administration’s actions build upon significant progress made to reinforce the supply chain by relieving port congestion, advancing workforce development programs, and signing the Ocean Shipping Reform Act into law.
“On average, railroaders earn $135,000 annually in total pay and benefits, which is higher than the average compensation of industries that employ 94% of the U.S. workforce,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies, welcoming the formation of the Board. “Railroads remain committed to reaching an agreement that provides their employees well-deserved compensation increases that keep them among the best paid in the nation.”
AAR members include the major freight railroads of the U.S., Canada and Mexico, as well as Amtrak.
The PEB has 30 days to produce a report with recommendations for contract settlement, and the rail carriers and unions are allowed 30 days to review the report’s findings.
As yet, there is no sign of similar intervention to resolve the current gridlock in negotiations between the West Coast port union, the ILWU, and the Pacific Maritime Association. The contract between those parties expired July 1.
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