NORTH CAROLINA (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – Disagreements over labor deals could cause the nation’s first significant railroad strike in 30 years.
This week, the nation’s largest rail union members rejected a tentative deal with a freight railroad.
Like other strikes we have seen across the country recently, union reps are fighting for higher pay and better working conditions.
So far, eight of the 12 rail unions have voted in favor of the deals. Four unions, made up primarily of conductors, have not.
“Railroads hall a lot of raw materials and input products that people use on a daily basis,” Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway President Jennifer White said.
White’s family-owned railroad company is a small part of that system. While the company uses short lines to haul items to the last leg of their journey, two Class 1 railroads in North Carolina push goods from all sides of the country.
“There are 1.8 million rail cars moved to freight a year, and one rail car is equivalent to four tractor-trailer trucks that we see on the highway,” White said.
An additional 7.2 million trucks would have to pack roadways with a possible strike to get the job done.
“We don’t have enough truck drivers for the trucking system as it normally does in conjunction to rail,” said UNC-Charlotte professor of economics John Connaughton.
A halt to a major sector of the U.S. supply chain that is already struggling to keep up could have massive repercussions.
Economists say at first, items primarily shipped via rail. Goods like coal and cars would be impacted.
If the strike was prolonged, consumers could see price increases and shortages of everyday things like e-commerce and household goods.
“As we get into these next few weeks, we’ve got to get to a solution that does not subject the American Economy to the threat of a shutdown,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said.
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In Washington, policymakers feel pressure from the retail industry to prevent strikes.
If no deal is made within the next two weeks, Congress could order workers to stay on the job.
“We are urging the parties to get to the table and to do whatever it takes to prevent a shutdown,’ Buttigieg said.
It is estimated that a rail strike would cost the U.S. economy about $2 billion per day.