NGFA, Shippers Urge Biden to Help Settle Rail Labor Dispute

In a July 1 letter to President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, NGFA and other shipper groups urged the administration to take action in finding a workable settlement in the ongoing rail labor negotiations to avert a possible rail strike.

NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert and leaders of five other national associations called on President Biden to establish a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to help the nation's Class I railroads and rail labor groups reach a contract settlement and “prevent catastrophic disruptions to the freight rail network.”

Recommendations of a PEB are nonbinding, but the letter says, “history has demonstrated that the parties have previously entered into voluntary agreements as a direct result of the employment of this process in prior instances of labor/management negotiations.”

The rail network is experiencing significant service disruptions
, the shippers noted, and an additional disruption of rail service related to a labor dispute would “push an already stressed rail network to the brink” and have immediate impacts on the nation’s supply chain.

“It is of critical importance to all sectors of the economy that these parties reach an amicable agreement and avoid any service disruption,” the letter noted. “Any rail work stoppage in the United States would exacerbate the ongoing supply chain challenges, upend the U.S. economy and hurt American consumers and jobs.”

The rail industry’s 12 labor unions, which represent 125,000 employees, and most Class I railroads began the bargaining process more than two years ago to amend unionized rail worker wages, benefits and work rules. The National Mediation Board became involved earlier this year but ended mediation on June 17 starting a 30-day cooling-off period.

If Biden creates the PEB, it will have 30 days to issue a report providing recommendations for settlement of the dispute. After the PEB reports to the president, the parties to the dispute have another 30-day period to consider the recommendations and reach an agreement.