Railway Union Refuses White House Deal, Raising Possibility Of Catastrophic Strike

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Train and engine service members of the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) narrowly rejected a White House-brokered deal, sending the union back to the bargaining table with railroads before a Dec. 8 strike deadline.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and SMART-TD each concluded voting on the deal Sunday evening, with BLET ratifying the agreement with 53.5% of the vote, while SMART-TD train and engine service members rejecting the deal with 50.87% of the vote, according to the unions’ press release Monday. Despite a historically large raise of 24% across five years, unions have struggled to convince engineers and conductors, whom SMART-TD represents, to accept the deal’s conditions on sick leave and attendance, according to The Washington Post. (RELATED: The Impending Railroad Strike Could Grind The Entire Economy To A Halt, Experts Warn)

“SMART-TD members with their votes have spoken, it’s now back to the bargaining table for our operating craft members,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said in the unions’ press release. “This can all be settled through negotiations and without a strike. A settlement would be in the best interests of the workers, the railroads, shippers and the American people.”

SMART-TD’s yardmasters voted separately to approve the deal, with an overwhelming 62.48% approving the deal. Train and engine service members represent about 28,000 of the workers represented by SMART-TD, while yardmasters account for just 1,300, according to the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCC), who represent the railways, in a statement shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

A strike would have reverberating effects throughout the economy, potentially leading to a spike in retail and gasoline prices as trains idled, leaving an already understaffed trucking industry to fill the gap. The American Association of Railroads, a trade group representing the major freight carriers, estimates that a strike would cause roughly $2 billion per day in economic damages.

While the deadline for a SMART-TD agreement is Dec. 8, the deadline for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees and Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen is Dec. 5, the Washington Post reported. If the two smaller unions were to strike, other unions would most likely strike in solidarity.

SMART-TD and BLET did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.

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