Amtrak cancels long-distance trains ahead of impending strike


Amtrak announced that all long-distance trains have been canceled in advance of a threatened strike by railroad workers.

While Amtrak workers are not involved in the ongoing industrial action, over 21,000 track miles outside of the Northeast Corridor — from Boston to Washington DC — are owned and operated by freight companies.

Members of a rail workers’ union on Wednesday rejected a tentative deal with the country’s biggest rail companies, which include Union Pacific, Berkshire Hathaway’s and Norfolk Southern. Two unions have ratified agreements and three others are at the negotiating table before Friday – when union members are legally allowed to strike under federal guidelines.

Amtrak announced the additional cancellations Wednesday after canceling 10 long-distance trains earlier this week.

Trains canceled Thursday are the Auto Train (Washington to Sanford, Florida), Capitol Limited (Washington to Pittsburgh), Cardinal (Washington to Chicago) and the Palmetto (South Washington to Savannah, Georgia).

Amtrak workers are not on strike, but railroads own and operate more than 21,000 tracks.

Other commuter rails, such as Chicago’s Metra, have also announced they will be forced to cut service Thursday.

There are 12 unions representing 115,000 workers who have to vote to approve the tentative agreements. So far, nine have agreed.

The deals are based on recommendations from the Presidential Emergency Board, appointed by President Joe Biden this summer, which called for 24% pay increases and $5,000 in bonuses retroactive to 2020 in a five-year deal.

The unions, which represent conductors and engineers who drive trains, have hoped the railroads would address additional issues, such as: B. their strict attendance policy, which makes it difficult to take time off. They have said the railroad’s decision to cut its workforce by a third over the past six years has made the job even harder.

They have demanded that the railroads grant unpaid leave so workers can attend to personal matters, such as doctor’s appointments, without being penalized.

The strike could put additional strain on already stretched supply chains and escalate the already high cost of inflation. Even a brief shutdown would dramatically disrupt shipments of fuel, chemicals, food, automobiles, coal, and other imported goods and products.

According to the Association of American Railroads trade group, a strike would cost the economy an estimated $2 billion a day.

The Business Roundtable said a strike would be an “economic disaster.”

People wait on an Amtrak train platform at Union Station in Los Angeles
A strike by the railroad workers could have a significant economic impact in addition to passenger trains.

Analysts have warned of fuel shortages in the Northeast if workers go on strike as 300,000 barrels of crude oil are transported by rail every day, according to American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers.

The Biden administration has been pressuring unions and freight companies to reach an agreement to avoid a strike and is working on a plan to ship goods by truck and schedule whether workers disembark on Friday.

Congress has the power to block the strike, as it has in previous national rail labor disputes, but it’s not clear if it would act before the midterm elections in that case.

With postal wires

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