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Railroad labor negotiations are coming to the end of a thirty-day cooling-off period this Friday, September 16th which means a strike is possible. While many Class 1 railroads prepare for the possibility of a work stoppage, many have started placing embargoes on cargo that is time- or security-sensitive or hazardous. While the government has made it clear that they’re prepared to step in, parties on both sides hope for a mutually beneficial resolution before that happens. 

Just announced, three unions now have yet to affirm a tentative agreement offer. The three holdouts are the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the International Association of Sheet Metal Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, who declined the agreement just this afternoon.  

For the railroads, their process of drawing down services to prevent issues from a hard stop at work has been in process since last Friday. Currently, we are seeing:

  • UP – Embargo on security-sensitive and hazmat cargo 
  • NS –  Exports will not be received at its rail terminals starting 12:01 AM on Wednesday, September 14th
  • BNSF – will not allow Temperature Controlled Intermodal (TCI) units to in-gate at any of its intermodal facilities.  Customers should pick up their TCI units at the final destination and any units at their origin that have not been loaded onto a train. (Non-running TCI units used for dry bulk shipments may still be in-gated.)
  • CN – Exports will not be received at its rail terminals starting at 23.59 hours on Thursday, Sept. 15,

While a strike isn’t inevitable, the threat of a supply chain disruption during peak season worries everyone in our industry. Because 40% of all long-distance transportation in the U.S. is moved by rail, there is a real chance that a strike could cost the U.S. economy $2 billion daily. 

The labor issue has been problematic for the rail industry for six years as deep, painful cuts to their workforce manifested in service problems and burnout. Padding shareholder pockets jumped up and bit them now that they have to recompense a staff that’s been given little reason to believe that management has their best interest at heart. Speaking of heart, the heart of the negotiation agreement is hinging on the quality-of-life benefits like attendance policy, vacation, and sick time. 

This is a developing story. Coppersmith will update this space as more information unfolds this week. If you have any questions or concerns about your cargo, rail delays, and solutions to avoid problems inherent in a strike, contact your representative today for more information.

Bobby Shaida

Author Bobby Shaida

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