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Bargaining Update: National Bargaining at Impasse, BMWED/SMART Coalition Calls for P.E.B.

Published: Feb 1 2022 3:31PM

The BMWED/SMART-MD Coalition held a mediation session on Jan. 28 with the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC) under the direction of the National Mediation Board.

Once again, and unsurprisingly, the carriers did not present a comprehensive proposal. Rather, they continued to maintain their position that any voluntary agreement with what they would describe as “fair wage increases” would require substantial union concessions on health and welfare benefits and changes to wok rules. Our coalition remains far apart from the carriers and we are at impasse in negotiations.

“It is clear the railroads have waged a war on its employees,” BMWED President Freddie N. Simpson said. “They refuse to give us a comprehensive proposal, but their circular comments continue to be that they want less employees to do more work, through a pandemic to boot, while taking cuts to their health and welfare benefits. They are disrespectful to the great men and women that make the railroad run profitably. There is no path forward in mediation. We are at an impasse. I have urged the federal government to establish a Presidential Emergency Board as soon as possible. Railroad workers have had enough, and we ask the NMB and President Biden to give us a fair and impartial shake at an agreement for these hard-working men and women.”

As a reminder, Labor Economist Tom Roth’s presentation on behalf of the BMWED/SMART-MD coalition reaffirms that the railroads’ bargaining position is unrealistic and unreasonable considering the carriers’ recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and continued spree of record profitability and record low operating ratios.  Roth also pointed out that the railroads have so much cash money on hand that the “Big 3” railroads (CSX, NS and Union Pacific) spent over $28 billion in stock buybacks in the last 33 months, while spending only $25.3 billion in wages and benefits for all their employees combined.  

BMWED/SMART-MD Coalition spokesman, Richard Edelman, followed Roth’s presentation with some comments, noting that railroad employment levels are down nearly 30% since the last round of National Negotiations, and that railroad workers are quitting more frequently than ever – often in mid-career which is unheard of in this industry - given the railroads’ continued campaign of demanding more and more work from less and less railroad workers.  He also noted that the railroads would need to recognize that in order to reach an Agreement, the railroads would have to make real changes in their bargaining position.