Senate votes to avert rail strike, conclude bargaining round

The Senate voted on an overwhelmingly bipartisan basis to avert a rail strike and implement tentative agreements reached between railroads and workers. Over the course of the contract, average railroaders will receive a $16,000 immediate payout and increase wages and benefits to $160,000 per year.

Ian Jefferies headshot
Ian Jefferies

“The Senate acted with leadership and urgency with today’s vote to avert an economically devastating rail work stoppage,” said AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “As we close out this long, challenging process, none of the parties achieved everything they advocated for. The product of these agreements is a compromise by nature, but the result is one of the substantial gains for rail employees. More broadly, all rail stakeholders and the economy writ large now have certainty about the path forward.

“Let’s be clear railroading is tough, essential work that keeps our nation moving, and our employees deserve our gratitude for moving America’s freight and doing so safely every day. The gains in this agreement are significant, including historic wage increases, best-in-class healthcare, and meaningful progress in creating more predictable, scheduled work shifts. Without a doubt, there is more to be done to further address our employees’ work-life balance concerns, but it is clear this agreement maintains rail’s place among the best jobs in our nation.”

Among other things, the contracts now in place will:

  • Provide a 24 percent wage increase during the five-year period from 2020 through 2024, including an immediate payout on average of $16,000 upon ratification.
  • Include $5,000 in performance bonuses, with total average annual pay and benefits reaching $160,000 by the end of the contract period.
  • Maintain some of the best healthcare plans in the nation.
  • Provide an additional paid personal leave day per year.
  • Continue to provide multiple options for time off and, for those employees who operate trains, the agreements include enhanced abilities to schedule time off and local agreements to be finalized after the ratification of the national agreement will further enhance the quality of life and the predictability of schedules.

The industry would like to thank all unions involved in negotiations for their efforts and commitment to advancing the best interests of their members. In addition, railroads appreciate the Biden Administration, especially Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, National Economic Council Director Brian Deese, and the members and staff at the National Mediation Board, for their leadership and assistance throughout negotiations.

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