Speed Reads

Getting Derailed

Nationwide freight union strike threatens to derail economy ahead of holiday season

The U.S. inched closer to a nationwide railway strike that could have drastic economic implications for the upcoming holiday season, as the nation's largest freight rail union on Monday rejected a tentative labor deal. 

The SMART Transportation Division, or SMART-TD, which ABC News reported represents about 28,000 train conductors, announced it had voted to reject the proposed contract. The deal was shut down by a slim margin, with 50.8 percent of the workers voting against it. 

However, the country's second-largest freight rail union, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), voted in favor of the contract. BLET represents about 24,000 engineers, per CNN

With the two unions coming to a split decision, it is looking increasingly likely that the freight rail industry heads into a nationwide strike — just in time for the busiest period of the year. ABC News noted that a strike is almost certainly to come in December unless the contract is ratified by all 12 of the country's rail unions, and only four have done so. 

Despite this, SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson said in a statement, "This can all be settled ... without a strike. A settlement would be in the best interests of the workers, the railroads, shippers, and the American people."

The tentative deal, which was brokered by the Biden administration in September, would cover more than 100,000 freight industry workers, according to The New York TimesIf ratified, the contract would raise wages by more than 25 percent over five years.