Skip to main content

Rail Contract Talks Chugging Along as Unions Accept Pay Hike

More than 15,000 rail workers could soon have a new contract after unions and carriers said Monday they’ve reached a tentative agreement that would end a multi-year contract dispute.  

The workers represented by the announcement account for about 13 percent of the total number of individuals negotiating new collective bargaining agreements with the nation’s major railroads. Unions involved in Monday’s announcement include the Transportation Communications Union/IAM (TCU/IAM), Brotherhood of Railway Carmen and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). 

The contract includes a 24 percent compounded increase to wages over the contract’s five-year term, which is retroactive to 2020. It also includes $5,000 total in bonuses to be paid out across the life of the contract.

The pay hike reflects the largest increase for railroad employees in more than three decades and is a middle ground between the 17 percent bump proposed by carriers and 31.3 percent being asked for by labor

“It is critical for all stakeholders—including customers, employers and the public—that all parties promptly resolve the negotiations and prevent service disruptions,” the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which is negotiating on behalf of the railroads, said Monday. “Accordingly, we look forward to additional discussions with the unions that have not yet reached tentative agreements and will continue seeking voluntary agreements based on the [Presidential Emergency Board’s] recommendations.” 

Related Stories

Contracts for members represented by nine other unions remain outstanding and represent roughly 100,000 workers. 

“It’s been three years since our national freight members’ last raise. If there was any chance of reaching a better agreement we would still be bargaining,” TCU national president Arthur Maratea said in a statement Monday. “Failing to reach agreement would mean our members in national handling would not get to vote on its terms—and we would have to rely on Congress to impose whatever terms it decided, which will take months to reach. I strongly believe our members should be the ones to vote and decide their future.” 

The Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) was established in July by President Biden to intervene in the negotiations and avert a possible strike after talks in mediation failed. The PEB released its recommendations Aug. 16, making the three unions included in Monday’s news the first to reach a settlement since the release of the board’s report.  

Unions and carriers are in the midst of a 30-day cooling off period that was triggered with the release of the PEB recommendations. The two groups have until Sept. 16 to potentially use the board recommendations to reach agreements before a strike or lockout action is allowed under the Railway Labor Act. Congress would also have the option under the law of intervening before a potential rail service disruption. 

“We fought side by side against the carriers’ attack on wages and healthcare benefits,” IAM special assistant to the international president Josh Hartford said in a statement Monday. “We stood together and pushed back against work rule changes that would have affected every rail union member.” 

The tentative agreements now go before the three unions’ membership for ratification.