(The Hill) – Nearly 5,000 railroad workers in the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) voted to reject a tentative contract agreement with the railroad and authorize a strike, the union said Wednesday.
IAM members are the first to approve a strike and contract rejection based on recommendations issued by a White House-appointed board last month.
The vote revealed that railroad workers were dissatisfied with the deal, which called for a 24 percent raise and back pay but did not address workers’ demands for a more predictable schedule and the ability to take time off for doctor’s appointments without penalty.
The IAM said it would delay the strike action until September 29 at noon to allow union leaders to continue negotiations with the railroad.
“We look forward to continuing our important work with fair contracts that ensure members and their families are treated with the respect they deserve to protect America’s goods and resources through the pandemic,” the IAM said in a statement.
More than 115,000 rail workers are legally authorized to strike until Friday, a move that will shut down the transportation of food, fuel and other goods, likely to damage the nation’s strained supply chain and. price increase.
Lawmakers are preparing to use their authority to block the walkout. GOP senators are backing a bill that would create new contracts based on the recommendations of the president’s council — a choice railroads and other business interests lobbied for — while Democratic leaders said they would intervene if necessary.
The White House, meanwhile, is discussing contingency plans to ensure that key goods still reach their destinations if the railroads are shut down.
“We are working with other modes of transportation, including shippers and trucks, air freight, to see how they can move and keep things moving in the event of this rail shutdown,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.