Galesburg railway unions react to tentative agreements with BNSF

Published: Sep. 20, 2022 at 2:08 AM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - With the help of federal intervention, railway unions and companies came to an agreement Thursday to avoid a historic work stoppage. On Monday, local unions in Galesburg were still learning new details about the proposed deal.

The Class I railroads all negotiated simultaneously with a dozen unions, including The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division(BMWED) and The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers-Transportation Division (SMART-TD).

Overall the unions’ principal demands included better pay and better time off policies. Local union leaders said the proposed terms make for a historic deal.

Both BMWED and SMART-TD will receive a 24% increase in pay through 2025.

BMWED generally represents those who work to repair and maintain the tracks trains travel on. They came to an agreement on Sunday with BNSF railway … five days before the strike deadline.

For local 798 vice president Nick Allen their proposal only met pay demands.

“If they were to throw in some sick time and some paid sick days, I think we probably ratify this agreement fairly easily,” Allen said. “Without those ratification is gonna be pretty hard.”

Meanwhile, SMART-TD generally represents operators like conductors or yardmen. They are part of the group of unions that went up to the wire coming to an agreement with railways early Thursday morning.

Local 445 Chairman Luke Sperry said his members can finally take time off without the fear of being reprimanded.

“It’s just getting time off quality-wise to take care of yourself or your loved ones medically,” Sperry said. “Right now, if we have to take time off, we’re deducted points from our system.”

While a potential strike could have caused disruptions to the supply chain and passenger rail Allen said they deserve to be treated like essential workers.

“We don’t want to disrupt the supply chain,” Allen said. “We don’t want to stop working. You know, we just want what’s fair for us. We want fair working conditions.”

If SMART-TD didn’t reach an agreement last Thursday, BMWED wouldn’t have crossed the picket line. Sperry said solidarity is essential on the railroad

“Everyone is feeling the strain,” Sperry said. “To have those groups to stand next to each other and to look at you, you know, eye to eye and say, ‘Hey, we’re here for you,’ I mean, unity is a great thing.”

After, his administration’s intervention in negotiations, President Joe Biden, released a statement on Thursday calling the agreement a victory for the economy and Americans.

“It is a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure that America’s families and communities got deliveries of what have kept us going during these difficult years,” Biden said.

BMWED members can see ballots as early as this Thursday. Meanwhile, SMART-TD members may have to wait up to two weeks to be able to cast their votes on the tentative agreement.