America is teetering on the verge of several crises. President Joe Biden's failure with the railroad unions may be about to make one of them worse.
A railroad strike may be imminent after the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen rejected a negotiated deal with the Biden administration, the Daily Wire reported. The BRS is the second union to do so as officials worry about a November strike.
Earlier this month, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division passed on the deal. The administration's failure to reach an agreement with these two unions could lead to a strike ahead of the busy holiday season, adding to a supply chain already struggling.
The vote for BRS members was a decisive one. All of its 6,339 members received ballots, and 4,639 ballots were returned with 60.57% rejecting the deal.
"For the first time that I can remember, the BRS members voted not to ratify a National Agreement, and with the highest participation rate in BRS history," Michael Baldwin, the union's president, said in a statement released on its website. Only 39.23% of its members were in favor of ratifying the deal.
Athough the deal did include a 24% compounded wage increase, some of the sticking points included a freeze and cap on healthcare plans and paid time off. "I have expressed my disappointment throughout the process in the lack of good-faith bargaining on the part of the [National Carriers’ Conference Committee], as well as the part [the Presidential Emergency Board] played in denying BRS members the basic right of paid time off for illness," Baldwin said.
"The NCCC and PEB also both failed to recognize the safety-sensitive and highly stressful job BRS members perform each day to keep the railroad running and supply chain flowing," he added. "Without Signalmen, the roadways and railroad crossings would be unsafe for the traveling public, and they shoulder that heavy burden each day," Baldwin continued.
"Additionally, the highest offices at each Carrier, as well as their stockholders, seem to forget that the rank-and-file of their employees continued to perform their job each day through an unprecedented pandemic, while the executives worked from home to keep their families safe." Negotiations will continue but may end up back in congress on Nov. 14.
In order to avoid a strike, each of the 12 unions would need to ratify the deal, according to NPR. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted that the administration is doing all it can to prevent a shutdown.
"It is the responsibility of the parties involved to resolve this issue, and any idea that kicking this to Congress will result in a quick or favorable outcome is deeply misguided," Jean-Pierre said. "These unions' rejection of the current proposed contract does not mean we face an immediate rail shutdown; that's not how we view it," she explained.
"But it does mean the unions and their employers have additional work to do," Jean-Pierre added. The problem for the administration is that this is just one in a string of crises that are impacting the supply chain, including inflation, the war in Russia, and growing tension with China.
Labor unions and Democrats are often in lockstep. Still, Biden can't seem to get this deal done -- and the consequences may be severe.