Looming rail strike would cost U.S. economy $2 billion per day, industry report says

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Looming rail strike would cost U.S. economy $2 billion per day, industry report says

Several unions representing tens of thousands of rail workers have yet to reach a new agreement with the railroads, which could lead to a strike next week. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

A new report says that a looming rail strike involving tens of thousands of workers next week would cost the U.S. economy about $2 billion per day and idle thousands of trains nationwide.

A deadline to come up with an agreement between U.S. railroads and the unions that make up the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition will arrive in a week. The coalition represents more than 100,000 rail workers and rail freight in the United States would cease if they strike.

According to a report Thursday by the Association of American Railroads, such a strike would cost $2 billion a day and shut down thousands of trains across a 140,000-mile network that runs through 49 states. A mandatory cooling off period ends on September 16, after which the unions will be allowed to strike.

Negotiators were scheduled to meet on Friday in a bid to avert the strike and work toward a new collective bargaining agreement. U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh met with rail carriers and the unions on Wednesday to try and facilitate a deal.

The National Carriers Conference Committee represents management at over 30 railroads and the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition is made up of a dozen rail labor unions. Five of them — smaller unions representing 21,000 workers — have reached agreements with the railroads.

For the remaining seven rail unions that have not reached an agreement, the greatest issues at the center of the dispute involve working conditions and rules that force engineers and conductors to be on call to work seven days a week.

Unions SMART TD and BLET said last month that they are committed to negotiating issues that are most important to their members, including wages, quality of life and health and welfare.

“We will continue to keep our members updated as the cooling-off period countdown clock to 12:01 a.m. (eastern time) on September 16th approaches. Our goal is and always has been to reach a voluntary agreement that is worthy of our membership’s consideration,” the unions said in a statement.

The unions said they have made it “abundantly clear” to rail carriers that the unions are prepared and willing to exercise every legal option available to achieve better compensation and working conditions that workers and their families “rightfully expect and deserve.”

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