fog.png
Wednesday December 7th, 2022 1:12PM

EXPLAINER: Rail strike would impact consumers, businesses

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

Commuters, food producers, refineries and others could all be affected if there is a nationwide rail strike at the end of this week.

Members of one union rejected a tentative agreement that their leaders had negotiated with the biggest freight railroads, and three other unions were still at the bargaining table on Wednesday. Two other rail unions ratified deals.

The Biden administration was putting pressure on railroads and unions to settle their differences and avert a strike. In case that didn't work, the administration was also working on a plan to use trucks and planes to move goods that are normally carried by freight railroads.

Business groups told Congress to step in and block a strike.

Here are key things to know ahead of a possible strike this Friday.

___

HOW DID NEGOTIATIONS GET TO THIS DIRE POINT?

The nation’s biggest freight railroads began negotiating with a dozen different unions representing about 115,000 workers in late 2019, but talks were slowed by the pandemic, which limited face-to-face meetings.

Government mediators tried to broker agreements, but that didn’t work. President Joe Biden then appointed a presidential emergency board, which held hearings and issued recommendations last month that included 24% pay raises and thousands of dollars in bonuses.

Many of the unions have reached tentative agreements with the railroads, but two large unions representing engineers and train conductors have held out for better terms on working conditions. Workers represented by the machinists’ union rejected a deal negotiated by their leaders, although that union agreed to delay any strike until Sept. 29. Two other unions — the Transportation Communications Union and the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen — voted to ratify their contracts Wednesday.

___

WHEN CAN WORKERS STRIKE?

By federal law, the unions can't legally strike until after Friday morning, just after midnight. That's when a 30-day “cooling-off” period ends, under terms of a law called the Railway Labor Act, which governs contract talks in the railroad and airline industries.

___

CAN A STRIKE BE BLOCKED?

Congress could intervene and block a strike or lockout, as it has done in previous nationwide rail-labor disputes, but it's not clear whether that would happen this time.

Lawmakers are divided over a resolution to the dispute. Republicans want to impose the presidential emergency board's terms, while Democrats prefer to let negotiators for the railroads and the two big unions keep talking.

___

WHAT ARE THE BIG ISSUES?

Rail workers stayed on the job throughout the pandemic but have not received a raise since 2019.

The unions sought raises of 31% over the five-year term of the new contracts, while the railroads offered 17% before the emergency board's recommendations. The largest railroads endorsed the board's middle-ground proposals, and most of the unions have reached tentative agreements based on those details.

However, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the transportation division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, which represents conductors, have held out in hopes of better terms including provisions on working conditions.

The major railroads have cut nearly one-third of their jobs in the last six years, and unions say that's making the work of their members harder. They want railroads to ease strict attendance policies that make it difficult to take time off for things like doctor appointments.

___

HOW WOULD A RAIL STRIKE AFFECT THE COUNTRY?

Railroads such as Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX and Norfolk Southern carry cars, coal, chemicals, grain, imported goods and other products and raw materials throughout the country. A shutdown — even a brief one — would delay critical shipments and ripple across the economy.

The Association of American Railroads trade group estimates that a strike would cost the economy $2 billion a day. The Business Roundtable says a strike would be an “economic catastrophe.”

___

WILL IT IMPACT FUEL SUPPLIES?

About 300,000 barrels of crude oil is shipped by rail every day, and refineries might have to slow production if deliveries are delayed, according to the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers. Analysts warn there could be shortages of gasoline and diesel in some places such as the Northeast.

___

WHAT ABOUT NEW CARS?

Most new vehicles are shipped from the factory or dock by rail, and analysts say there is not enough truck capacity to handle all those vehicles in case of a strike. That would mean even longer wait times for dealers and motorists to get their hands on new cars.

A strike could also interfere with production because automakers receive some parts and raw materials by rail.

___

WILL SOME STORE SHELVES BE BARE?

The railroads have announced plans to stop shipping refrigerated items ahead of the strike deadline, so there could be disruptions in deliveries of produce, meat and other items.

Food producers could be affected too, leading to longer-lasting effects. Agricultural groups say that even a brief strike would interrupt shipment of feed to livestock and poultry producers.

___

WILL A STRIKE AFFECT PASSENGER RAIL?

Yes. Amtrak announced that all long-distance trains have been canceled starting with Thursday's schedule. The passenger rail service had already suspended the California Zephyr and Empire Builder lines that run from Chicago to the West Coast and announced plans to shut down several others.

Amtrak uses its own track in much of the corridor from Washington to Boston, but almost everywhere else it relies on freight track that could be closed during a strike even though Amtrak and its workers are not involved in the negotiations.

Around the country, some local commuter rail lines also depend on tracks owned by the big freight railroads. The Chicago area’s Metra commuter line said that if there is a strike it will suspend operations on four of its 11 lines on Friday.

___

COULD THERE BE POLITICAL FALLOUT?

The White House is clearly worried that any disruption in supply chains just weeks before the November midterm elections could anger consumers, who are already facing the highest inflation in 40 years. That could hurt Democrats, who are trying to protect razor-thin control of the Senate and House.

Republicans will blame Democrats if there is a strike and Congress fails to stop it.

“This has been negotiated for three years. It’s time that it ends,” said Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee.

Democrats, however, are hesitant to stand in the way of unions trying to get a better deal for their members, and they say Congress should not try to tip the scales in negotiations.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the administration has told the railroads and unions that American families, business and farms would suffer. She said a strike is “not acceptable.”

___

Josh Funk in Omaha, Nebraska, Lisa Mascaro and Kevin Freking in Washington, Tom Krisher in Detroit and Cathy Bussewitz in New York contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online National News, Top General short headlines, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Business, AP Business - Corporate News, AP Online - Georgia News, AP Business - Economy, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2022 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
California sues Amazon, alleging antitrust law violations
California is suing Amazon, accusing the company of violating the state’s antitrust laws by stifling competition and engaging in practices that push sellers to maintain higher prices on products on other sites
2:10PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Queen Elizabeth II lies in state after solemn procession
Queen Elizabeth II has left Buckingham Palace for the last time, her casket borne to Westminster Hall by a horse-drawn gun carriage
2:09PM ( 11 minutes ago )
EXPLAINER: Rail strike would impact consumers, businesses
A strike by railroad workers would have wide-ranging impact on consumers, commuters and businesses
2:09PM ( 11 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Disabled voters win in Wisconsin; legal fights elsewhere
Wisconsin voters with disabilities are celebrating a win after a federal judge, citing the Voting Rights Act, ruled that they may get assistance returning their ballots
12:07PM ( 2 hours ago )
Conservative Bolduc wins New Hampshire's GOP Senate primary
Retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc has won New Hampshire’s Republican Senate primary and will face potentially vulnerable Democratic incumbent Maggie Hassan in November
12:05PM ( 2 hours ago )
Huge line to view monarch's coffin is queue fit for a queen
Britons famously love to line up, but marshaling hundreds of thousands of people who want to view the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II will test Britain’s famous capacity for queuing to its limit
12:04PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Procession of Queen Elizabeth II's coffin underway in London
Queen Elizabeth II has left Buckingham Palace for the last time
9:44AM ( 4 hours ago )
Close New Hampshire Senate primary tests direction of GOP
The Republican contest for Senate in New Hampshire remains a tight race between conservative Donald Bolduc and the more moderate Chuck Morse
8:48AM ( 5 hours ago )
Final preparations underway for procession of queen's coffin
Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin is set to leave Buckingham Palace for the last time as it is taken, amid somber pageantry, on a horse-drawn gun carriage past crowds of mourners to the Houses of Parliament, where the late monarch will lie in state for four days
8:47AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Text messages link Favre, welfare money, volleyball facility
New court documents show the Mississippi governor in 2017 knew of a plan for a nonprofit group to pay Brett Favre more than $1 million in welfare grant money so the retired NFL quarterback could help fund a volleyball facility
12:30PM ( 1 hour ago )
WHO: COVID end 'in sight,' deaths at lowest since March 2020
The head of the World Health Organization says the number of coronavirus deaths last week was the lowest reported number in the pandemic since March 2020, marking what could be a turning point in the years-long global outbreak
12:04PM ( 2 hours ago )
Leaky pen and staff job cuts: King Charles under scrutiny
Reports that up to 100 staff at King Charles III’s former residence could lose their jobs have drawn criticism of the British monarchy, within days of his accession to the throne
11:59AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Business
EU moves to ban products made with forced labor
The European Union has unveiled plans to ban products made with forced labor from the 27-nation bloc’s markets
8:27AM ( 5 hours ago )
German government could raise stake in gas supplier Uniper
German energy supplier Uniper says it is exploring the possibility of the government acquiring a majority holding in the company as its losses mount
8:13AM ( 6 hours ago )
US futures rebound slightly after Tuesday's rout
U.S. futures rebounded slightly before markets opened Wednesday, a day after Wall Street had its biggest single-day route in more than two years as a report showed inflation still has a surprisingly strong grip on the U.S. economy
8:00AM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Business - Economy
Jim Beam outlines expansion to ramp up bourbon production
Jim Beam plans to ramp up bourbon production at its largest Kentucky distillery
9:12AM ( 5 hours ago )
Energy crisis: EU chief wants to tap excess producer profits
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to cap the revenue of electricity producers that are making extraordinary profits because of the effects of the war in Ukraine and climate change
9:11AM ( 5 hours ago )
Woman with toy gun grabs trapped savings from Beirut bank
A woman carrying what she says was a toy pistol broke into a Beirut bank branch and took $13,000 from her trapped savings
9:00AM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
German man convicted of murder after killing over mask rules
A German man has been convicted of murder and given a life sentence for fatally shooting a young gas station clerk following a dispute over face masks
9:01AM ( 1 day ago )
As data centers proliferate, neighbors knock the noise
Northern Virginia has established itself as the world's largest home for data centers
8:53AM ( 1 day ago )
Lebanon: Central Bank lifts all expensive fuel subsidies
The Lebanese Central Bank has lifted its remaining subsidies on fuel
9:38PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Utilities
California sues Amazon, alleging antitrust law violations
California is suing Amazon, accusing the company of violating the state’s antitrust laws by stifling competition and engaging in practices that push sellers to maintain higher prices on products on other sites
2:10PM ( 9 minutes ago )
Petrino comes full-circle as Missouri State visits Arkansas
Bobby Petrino is 61 these days
1:56PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Queen Elizabeth II lies in state after solemn procession
Queen Elizabeth II has left Buckingham Palace for the last time, her casket borne to Westminster Hall by a horse-drawn gun carriage
1:56PM ( 24 minutes ago )
Defense suddenly rests case in Florida school shooter trial
Attorneys for Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz have suddenly and surprisingly rested their case, leading to a shouting match after the judge accused them of a lack of professionalism
1:38PM ( 42 minutes ago )
Armenia, Azerbaijan trade blame for clashes that killed 155
Armenia and Azerbaijan say 155 troops from the two countries have died since hostilities reignited between the longtime adversaries this week
1:35PM ( 44 minutes ago )