“A nationwide rail strike during the peak holiday season would be devastating to American businesses, consumers and the U.S. economy,” said Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation. said Monday.

On the subject:

After that, a labor strike was averted in September The White House made a preliminary deal for the 12 unions working on the national railways to keep the trains running.

However, the recent vote by the two largest unions to accept the deal was close, with one- transport department of SMART — narrowly trailing the proposal when voting closed at 11:59 p.m. Sunday. That leaves four of the 12 unions without contractual agreements.

Union officials on Monday called the result “disappointing” and said they were returning to the negotiating table.

If no contract agreement is reached during the cooling-off period, the strike could begin on December 9. The smaller union representing the engineers has the right to strike on December 5, but said it pushed back the target date to match the International Sheet Metal Association. , Aviation, railway and transport workers.

“There is a strong possibility that Congress could pass legislation to resolve this dispute,” Jeremy Ferguson, SMART’s president of transportation, wrote Monday. Another option, he said, is that Congress could force a deal by Dec. 9.

While the shutdown will affect passenger rail service, the uncertainty is again worrying Michigan businesses and utilities, which rely on rail to carry 90 million tons of freight, about 20 percent of the state’s freight traffic.

If a strike looks imminent, many freight restrictions will be imposed days before the deadline, John Dalms, chief executive Michigan Chemistry Council, Bridge Michigan said Monday. The effects will be statewide, he added, because the chemicals are at the start of many types of manufacturing, from food to semiconductors.

“The flow of important chemicals by rail will stop, with potential negative impacts on crop protection and food production, power generation, and even automobile, semiconductor and steel production,” Dalms wrote in a letter to U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow. , D-Michigan, calling for federal involvement in reaching a “mutual” settlement between the workers and the railroad.

Dalmes pointed to a new one economic analysis released by the American Chemical Council, which estimates that a month-long rail strike will have a “profound” impact on the roughly $2.8 billion in chemical cargo that moves across the country each week.

The month-long strike would take a total hit to the economy of $160 billion, or one percentage point of GDP, while raising producer prices by 4 percent. At the same time, the U.S. economy will lose 700,000 jobs across industries, according to the report.

Among the largest U.S. chemical companies to be affected are Michigan-based Dow, as well as 3M, Dupont, Exxon Mobil, Chevron, BP and Eli Lilly, Dalms said.

Union members have been working without a contract since 2019 and, since the pandemic, have said they are understaffed, forced to work overtime and face consequences if they take time off.

Association of American Railroads said on Monday the proposed contract would make “freight railroad workers among the highest paid workers in the country.”

AAR, the association that represents railroad owners, said most unions supported the negotiated deal, which includes an immediate 4.1 percent wage increase and a 24 percent wage increase through 2024. The agreement also provides top-notch health care with employee contributions capped at 15 percent, and that solves scheduling problems that have peaked over the past two years, the association said.

The next step, AAR said, must come from Congress to “act and impose conditions that are supported by the majority of unions, guaranteeing certainty for rail customers and the economy as a whole.”

State business representatives, including the Michigan Farm Bureau, are asking members to contact their representatives in Congress to push for the resolution.

At the same time, many Michigan companies are trying to explore rail alternatives, Dalms said, but few exist as transportation hiccups continue in the national supply chain as the pandemic recedes. Neither freight capacity nor warehouse stock is widely available.

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