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Rail labor union approves tentative contract

Date: November 5, 2022

By ELEANOR MUELLER, Politico

A railroad workers union on Saturday approved a proposed contract with freight railroads after having rejected an earlier version week prior.

The “yes” vote by the International Association of Machinists’ District 19 lowers the temperature on the potential for an economically devastating freight rail strike that — for some of the 12 unions involved — could start as soon as later this month.

In a statement, the union said it is “confident that this is the best deal for our members.”

In a nod to unrest among some rank-and-file members who felt the deal doesn’t go far enough, the union said it “recognizes that the agreement wasn’t accepted overwhelmingly, so our team will continue conversing with our members at our rail yards across the nation. This agreement is the first step in addressing some of the issues in our industry.”

IAM District 19 had previously voted in mid-September to reject a compromise solution, becoming the first such union to buck a tentative agreement with the nation’s largest freight rail carriers after the Biden administration helped broker common ground. Votes from the industry’s two largest unions are still outstanding.

Two other unions have rejected their compromises amid widespread dissatisfaction with working conditions like attendance policies that workers say make it practically impossible to take time off.

Though just one union’s failure to ratify could cause a strike, any significant work stoppage is highly unlikely given Congress’ ability to step in and extend a cooling-off period or impose the recommendations of a presidentially appointed emergency board.

Yet frustrated rail workers — emboldened by multiple social media campaigns — are taking any opportunity possible to protest policies that tightly restrict their time off, even for illness or other medical reasons.

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