President of largest railroad union predicts congressional intervention after ‘no’ vote

“Something has to happen by then or we’ll all walk,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson predicts that lawmakers will exercise their ability to intervene before then – although it is unclear whether they will impose the recommendations of a president-appointed emergency board as employers want; impose the unions’ respective tentative agreements as some officials have advocated; or simply extend the cooling-off period to give negotiators more time. Unions and Democrats have repeatedly urged against congressional intervention in hopes of retaining as much influence as possible.

“It’s such a short amount of time,” Ferguson said. “I think we’re going to see Congress freak out and step in here sometime next week, unfortunately.”

Ferguson said he would resume negotiations with the carriers on Tuesday alongside officials from three smaller rail freight unions who have also rejected their tentative agreements. “They’ve already been in talks for weeks, of course, but I’m going to join the party,” he said.

Still, based on how those talks have gone so far, Ferguson doesn’t expect to be able to gain much ground, especially since the contract proposed by SMART-TD made more complicated changes to the attendance and other policies.

“We’ll see if it goes anywhere,” Ferguson said. But “the carriers have been unwilling to budge with the other three unions” – “and already our agreement has many labor rule changes in which theirs really have not.” So “it’s a bigger hill for us to climb”.

Union officials haven’t heard much from Congress at this point, Ferguson said, leaving them mostly in the dark about their plans. The House and Senate came out this week ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday.

There’s “no real indication yet of what’s going to happen,” Ferguson said. But “everyone is ready to do it; get it over with.”


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