Correction: The original pay increase percentage and annual bonus has been corrected. The rail workers would receive $1,000 per year for 5 years.
NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — A deal the White House and Railroad Unions agreed upon to avoid a railroad strike, could potentially start to fall apart.
Rail workers are set to vote on the tentative deal, but if any of the 12 rail unions fail to ratify a new contract, nearly 125,000 employees could begin to strike.
An informational picket was held in Minot today, and rail workers told KX News how they felt about the tentative agreement.
Rail worker groups have called for an informational picket to address what it calls, staffing shortages and a lack of decent quality of life for employees, as railroads, workers and customers wait to see if unions will ratify the tentative agreement made last week between railroad leaders and President Joe Biden.
“Today there is a National Day of Picketing that is being done all around the country, this is being done on all the railroads everywhere. So, that’s especially why we’re out here to show that we’re not backing down.”
After 20 hours of negotiations, freight rail companies and unions reached a tentative agreement to avoid a strike,” said Deven Mantz, a foreman for BSNF.
The agreement now heads to union members for a ratification vote.
But rail workers say the tentative agreement doesn’t provide what they need in their new contract.
“We just need a better quality of life or living is all it is. I mean our supervisor gets sick time, we don’t get sick time. Our wage increases have been subpar for the last three or four contracts. So, we are just trying to get a little more out of them to keep up with inflation,” said Corey Johnson, a foreman for BSNF.
Mantz explains, “We have people who are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And they don’t get the time off to do certain things, even go to the dentist. And so, they have to cancel appointments constantly. Kids get sick, we get sick, and due to the attendance policies, that were just put in place in January, a lot of the trainmen in the area here specifically have quit the railroad and so those are major issues. It’s mostly about quality of life and safety issues.”
The tentative agreement states railroad workers will get assigned days off, and one extra paid day off.
Previously rail freight workers did not get sick days.
They will also receive an annual bonus of $1,000 a year, an immediate wage increase of 14%, and a 22% pay increase over the next five years.
Workers say if they do not reach an agreement soon, they are prepared to strike.
Senator Kevin Cramer said in a statement, “Even the pending threat of a strike has already begun to affect the transport of critical energy supplies and fertilizers across the nation. Every American will be affected by a strike, and they are all expecting a resolution.”
“It’s not over yet, we still have to sign the deal and vote on it nationwide. And so, you know, it could come to a strike at some point. And so right now, we’re just showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters across the nation on other railroads and in every craft that were here too and we’re showing that solidarity,” said Mantz.
For the strike threat to end, workers would need to feel that the proposed contract is stronger than the tentative agreement.
The voting process for the new contract will be complete at the beginning of October.
But officials say they won’t have official numbers until late October, possibly even into November.