The country's third-largest freight rail workers union rejected a temporary agreement brokered by the Biden administration to avert a potentially crippling nationwide railroad strike, raising the possibility that one could occur next month.
In a statement Monday, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division of the Teamsters said 56% of its more than 11,000 workers had voted against the tentative agreement. Some of the provisions would allow workers to avoid attendance penalties for routine medical visits and hospitalizations, and the proposal included the biggest wage increases in more than four decades.
However, the deal did not address the number of unpaid sick days for which workers would now be eligible, among other issues that were left to be negotiated in the future.
"Railroaders are discouraged and upset with working conditions and compensation and hold their employer in low regard," union President Tony D. Cardwell said in a statement. "Railroaders do not feel valued. They resent the fact that management holds no regard for their quality of life, illustrated by their stubborn reluctance to provide a higher quantity of paid time off, especially for sickness."
In a brief statement, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee, which represents the country’s freight railroads in national collective bargaining negotiations, said it was "disappointed" with the decision.
Rejecting the tentative agreement sets in motion a "status quo" period in which the union will resume negotiations with large freight carriers.
The Associated Press reported that the union will delay any strike until five days after Congress reconvenes in mid-November to allow time for additional negotiations.