video Railroad workers still hold substantial ‘anger and animosity’: Dennis Pierce
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen National President Dennis Pierce discusses the imminent rail strike amid a large rail union’s decision to reject Biden’s labor deal.
Following the rail union's devastating decision to vote against a tentative deal pushed by the White House, Dennis Pierce, the national president of one of the nation's largest unions, reinforced the workers' internal loyalty by contending that no group would "cross" another's "picket line."
Four unions have voted against the deal, while eight have voted for it. The union that Pierce oversees, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), voted to ratify the agreement.
A worker rides a rail car at a BNSF rail crossing in Saginaw, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero / AP Newsroom) "We've been at the bargaining table for three years trying to work out a contract. All through that time, the railroads have made record profits, they've slashed their workforce, and our guys were forced to work as essentials through the pandemic," Pierce explained Wednesday on "Mornings with Maria." RAIL UNION STRIKE WOULD CREATE A ‘CRIPPLING’ ECONOMY, INDUSTRY OFFICIAL WARNS
"We voted the same contract that Smart Transportation did. They were both very close votes. They barely failed. We barely ratified. And I think it's an indication of the anger and animosity that's still out there on the railroad. It doesn't mean that our contract won't get signed, and we'll get to work trying to improve conditions out there. But the other unions are back at the table trying to get this finished," he continued.
video U.S. railroads doing ‘everything we can’ to prevent economic ‘crippling’ from strike: Ian Jeffries
Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jeffries says the companies are ‘ready, willing and able’ to negotiate new terms with rail unions.
Providing more paid sick days has become a divisive concern that has caused several proceeding agreements to sputter. Unions are trying to get 15 paid sick days for workers, a request which railroads have "refused" to provide in their agreements.
"It's a combination of sick pay and just time away from work in general, especially for the train crews. The engineers and conductors work on a rotating call basis. Many of them have no scheduled days off. It would be a foreign concept to most Americans not to know when you're ever going to get a day with your family," Pierce detailed. "And in the middle of the pandemic, the railroads adopted more strict attendance policies. And when people need to take time off with whether they're sick, even with COVID or for their families, they've been given attendance points and in many cases terminated."
A conductor waits on the platform as the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner stops at the Anaheim, California, station. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images / Getty Images)
The unions have until midnight the morning of Dec. 9 to reach an agreement. If no consensus is reached, workers will be forced to resort to a labor strike. Leverage undoubtedly lies in the hands of the rail workers, and both parties are fully aware of the economic turmoil a rail strike would evoke.
WITH RAIL STRIKE LOOMING, WHITE HOUSE WON'T SAY HOW BIDEN IS 'DIRECTLY INVOLVED' IN NEGOTIATIONS
"It's because of the way they've treated these folks. So, they've got to do something to change the needle. We could get past the strike deadline to work it out. But they're still having so much trouble hiring that the supply chain is not healed like it should be," the BLET president urged. "The railroads are all but counting on Congress to intervene."
video Rail strike resurfacing is ‘another example’ of too much politicization: Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist argues the Republican Party has the ‘power of the purse’ now.
"If Congress would stay out of it, my guess is the unions and the railroads would find a way to work this out to avoid a strike and the financial impact to the railroad industry alone. But Congress has authority in these matters if they choose to get into it — they've done it before," Pierce concluded.
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