(The Center Square) – Billions in economic losses and disruptions to the daily lives of Americans loom on the horizon with a potential US freight railroad strike at the end of the week.
A deadline for agreement is 12:01 a.m. Friday.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Who: Freight Railways and Railway Unions. The railroads, 13 in all, include Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX and Kansas City Southern. The railway unions, 12 in number, represent 115,000 workers.
- Why: The money, the conditions. A presidential emergency board created this summer by President Joe Biden — a pro-union Democrat — recommends 24% raises over five years, $5,000 in bonuses and an extra paid day a year. It would be retroactive to 2020, run until 2024 and have an immediate 14% salary increase covering the first three years.
- Status: Two unions are resisting, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Officers and the SMART Transportation Division. Their issues include on-call duty, the notice period for a 12-hour shift, and penalties for illness.
- Cost: The Association of American Railroads estimates that the US economy will lose $2 billion each day of the strike.
- Impact: According to federal data, rail travel 28% of US freight. Industries of all types would be impacted, including those using rail and those using trucks and planes, two modes of transportation that will be called upon to recover the missing rail element. The American Trucking Association estimates an additional 460,000 long-haul trucks would be needed every day to make up for transportation shortfalls during a rail strike.
- Event: Amtrak uses some freight rails and has already adjusted its schedules. Some trips cannot be completed before the Friday deadline. Lines from Chicago to the West Coast of the California Zephyr and Empire Builder are suspended; today, Amtrak is discontinuing the City of New Orleans, Starlight, and Texas Eagle lines, among others.
- Subway: Not all majors will be affected. For example, the New York MTA says it won’t be impacted. Chicago’s Metra, however, says most of its trains won’t be able to run.