Following Speaker Pelosi’s announcement that the U.S. House of Representatives would take up new legislation separate from a bill to implement the neutrally arbitrated agreements already ratified by the majority of unions, AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies issued the following statement:
“Just last night, President Biden spoke clearly on the appropriate need for Congress to implement the agreements already ratified by eight of the twelve unions, which represent a clear pattern. Doing so was never anti-worker, in fact, it would reward all rail workers with historic deals – particularly those who already ratified – as well as the millions of workers across the economy who would suffer from a rail strike.”
“Now, after the Speaker stated publicly this is the most prudent path, the House is considering a new measure to the equation based on the wholly false premise that rail employees do not get paid sick leave. The ramifications of approving such a measure would disincentivize future voluntary agreements for freight railroads, Amtrak and airlines if a party in bargaining believes it can obtain a better deal from Congress than it could through good faith negotiations and the statutory PEB process under the Railway Labor Act. This ignores over 100 years of precedent and clearly usurps longstanding bargaining procedures.”
AAR stresses a few points for lawmakers and the public to understand:
- Every single union gets some form of paid sick leave. The terms of these sickness benefits are the product of multiple rounds of collective bargaining in addition to extended paid sickness benefits not enjoyed by employees in any other industry.
- These benefits are no accident – they are the result of decades of collective bargaining in which unions have repeatedly agreed that time off for shorter illnesses may be unpaid in favor of higher compensation and more generous long-term sickness benefits. Rail employees are in the top 7 percent of U.S. wage earners.
- Most rail workers are scheduled employees who work predictable schedules and have ample paid time off. On average workers have three weeks of vacation and up to 14 days of holidays and personal leave days. More senior employees receive up to five weeks of vacation for a total of up to seven weeks of paid leave.
- The Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) took concerns about paid leave into account when they released the very generous recommendations on which the tentative agreements are based.
Jefferies concluded: “Now is not the time for Congress to put its thumb on the scale and selectively add to labor contracts, including agreements already ratified by employees, created through a multi-year process. It is in direct conflict with the President’s statement and the Speaker and Congress must think of the long-term implications of such actions. A vote for terms above and beyond those recommended by the PEB, agreed to at the bargaining table, and ratified by a majority of the unions and voting employees, would upend the time-tested bargaining process in rail and other industries.”