A Crippling Railroad Strike Is Looming, Just in Time for the Holidays

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The trains might not run on Christmas Eve.

The SMART Transportation Division (SMART TD), the country’s largest railroad union, narrowly rejected a contract from the White House on Monday. This means there is a possibility of a strike right in time for Christmas.

ABC News:

Monday’s vote by the SMART Transportation Division (or SMART-TD), which represented approximately 28,000 conductors, saw the union reject the contract. It was a record turnout. Only 50.8% of workers voted in favor of the contract.

On Monday, the second-largest railroad union, composed of engineers, voted for the contract. This splits the top rail unions which account for roughly half the industry’s workers.

This is important because, in September, President Biden announced that his administration had reached an accord with railroad unions to avoid a strike. Nevertheless, the unions didn’t confirm the agreement at the time. This led to speculation that Biden had only reached an agreement for everyone to remain quiet until the midterm elections were over.

We covered the “deal” in the following:

After threats of a strike, we reported previously that the Biden administration reached a tentative agreement with national railroad workers and their union. This strike could further complicate the already fragile supply chain. The administration was under great pressure to prevent another economic disaster with only two months before the midterms. Within 24 hours of the deadline, a deal was reached.

It turns out, however, that details of the deal were not revealed to rail workers. Some are now questioning whether they actually got what they asked for.

The Washington Post:

Even though the agreement was reached, there were still many questions. The parties to the negotiations have not confirmed the number and eligibility of workers for unpaid sick days. Details about other provisions of the agreement remain unclear.

It’s a Christmas miracle!

There are eleven railroad unions. All eleven railroad unions must agree to ratify the White House contract. Only four unions have so far ratified the contract. A strike is inevitable unless SMART-TD negotiates a deal that they are comfortable with. All 11 unions have agreed that they will not cross picket lines if a strike is called.

An already troubled economy could be hit hard by a railroad strike at the busiest time of the year. This could also cause serious disruption to the supply chain. Every year, the United States transports trillions of tonnes of goods by train. The freight trains of America shipped more than 2.1 trillion tonnes of kilometers (one ton of goods per kilometer) in 2020.