Statement by Jeremy Ferguson, President SMART Transportation Division and Dennis Pierce, President Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen on Tentative Agreement Reached Early This Morning Between Unions Representing Conductors and Engineers and the Nation’s Class I Railroads
Early this morning, following nearly three years of bargaining, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), a Division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) reached a Tentative National Agreement with the nation’s largest freight rail carriers that include wage increases, bonuses, with no increases to insurance copays and deductibles. For the first time, our unions were able to obtain negotiated contract language exempting time off for certain medical events from carrier attendance policies. Our unions will now begin the process of submitting the tentative agreement to a vote by the memberships of both unions.
The tentative agreement calls for an immediate wage increase of 14% once compounded, with an additional 4% on July 1, 2023, and 4.5% on July 1, 2024. In addition, wage increases of 3% effective July 1, 2020, 3.5% effective July 1, 2021, and 7% effective July 1, 2022, will be fully retroactive, for a compounded increase of 24% over the 5-year term of the agreement. The agreement also includes annual lump sum bonus payments totaling $5,000.
The parties’ Health and Welfare Plan Point of Service (POS) costs will remain unchanged; there will be no increases to copays and deductibles and there are no disruptions to the existing healthcare networks. In the last 20 hours of nonstop negotiations, our unions were able to reach an agreement that freezes our member’s monthly health care contributions at the end of the agreement. No additional increases will apply to our monthly contributions while the parties bargain over the next National Freight Agreement.
The solidarity shown by our members, essential workers to this economy, who keep America’s freight trains moving, made the difference in our obtaining an agreement with provisions that exceeded the recommendations of the Presidential Emergency Board. We listened when our members told us that a final agreement would require improvements to our member’s quality of life as well as economic gains. As a result, this agreement includes provisions that will create voluntary assigned days off for members working through freight service and all members will receive one additional paid day off. Most importantly, for the first time ever, the agreement provides our members with the ability to take time away from work to attend routine and preventative medical, as well as exemptions from attendance policies for hospitalizations and surgical procedures.
This tentative agreement provides for the highest general wage increases over the life of the agreement in over 45 years. SMART-TD was successful in blocking the carrier’s attempts to fast-track arbitration on Crew Consist agreements, protecting two-person crews for the indefinite future. The carrier’s demands for increases in Point of Service health care costs were blocked, along with their demands to charge married employees with children more for their monthly health care contributions. Retroactive application of general wage increases and performance bonuses will provide our members with checks for meaningful back pay in the coming weeks.
This agreement would not have been reached, at this time, without the hard work of President Biden, Labor Secretary Walsh, Deputy Labor Secretary Su, and others in the administration, as well as the members of the National Mediation Board. We also would like to thank Congressional leaders, including Senators Schumer, Durbin, and Sanders, and Speaker Pelosi, who listened to our requests and stayed out of our dispute, allowing for an agreement to be reached across the bargaining table, rather than through legislation.
This contract will not become final until our members have an opportunity to review its terms and approve it through a ratification vote.
Combined, the BLET and SMART-TD represent approximately 125,000 active and retired rail employees, approximately half of our membership is employed at Class I railroads that are party to this agreement.