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June 27, 2022 4:36 PM, EDT

ATA Asks Federal Leaders to Assist in Rail Negotiations

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American Trucking Associations called on federal elected leaders to ensure ongoing freight rail workforce negotiations avoid disrupting key aspects of the nation’s supply chain.

The White House is expected to name a Presidential Emergency Board, or PEB, to assist railroads and employees to arrive at a labor agreement. Elements of the labor force and various rail firms continue to negotiate terms associated with work rules and benefits.

“We feel that the appointment of a PEB consisting of respected, experienced, and impartial arbitrators who can issue credible recommendations and help secure a reasonable agreement is imperative,” ATA President Chris Spear wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and congressional leaders on June 24. “Not only would the appointment of such a board be consistent with past precedent across political parties, but it would also send a signal to the negotiating parties, as well as the large number of rail customers like ATA members, that policymakers want an agreement above all else and will not tolerate rail service disruptions.”

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Spear also expressed sympathy for both sides, while noting congressional intervention has been instrumental in avoiding service interruptions. Disruptions in the intermodal movement of freight would agitate fragile supply chains, which continue to recover post-pandemic. As Spear put it, “the current economic challenges and ongoing recovery from COVID-related disruptions really depend on the entire supply chain working effectively without disruption.”

Chris Spear

Spear

“In our experience, it is always best for the parties to resolve the dispute but if necessary, it is vital that Congress be ready should those efforts fail also,” Spear added. In addition to the leadership at the White House, his letter was addressed to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman and ranking member Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.), respectively. It also included Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee Chairwoman and ranking member Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.), respectively.

Freight railroad companies recently arrived at a stalemate in their negotiations with unions over a labor contract. The parties have been in contract negotiations for more than two years. This year, the National Mediation Board facilitated talks between the two sides. The independent agency mediates in the arena of railway and airline sectors.