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Boilermakers reject labor agreement with US freight railroads

Cooling-off period will be in effect until Dec. 9

IBB members have voted not to ratify their labor agreement with U.S. freight railroads. (Photo: Shutterstock/Puttachat Kumkrong)

Members of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB) have decided not to ratify a labor agreement with the railroads, stakeholders said Monday.

IBB members represent about 300 rail employees, many of whom work on repairing locomotives. 

IBB joins the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way – Employes Division (BMWED) and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS) in rejecting the labor deal. Their votes send all three unions back to the bargaining table.

Meanwhile, members of the two largest unions representing locomotive engineers and train conductors — the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD) — are voting this week on whether to ratify their labor contracts. Those results are expected to come out next Monday. Both unions represent roughly half of the over 100,000 rail workers affected by labor negotiations.

Seven other rail unions have voted to ratify their labor deals.

Upon receiving news of the vote, the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), the group representing the freight railroads in negotiations, said it was “disappointed” the IBB members failed to ratify the pact.


“This result will delay the benefits of the tentative agreement for IBB-represented employees, including an immediate 14.1% wage increase and substantial retroactive and lump sum payouts,” NCCC said.

NCCC and IBB will maintain a cooling-off period through Dec. 9, which means union members cannot engage in self-help action, such as going on strike. 

“The NCCC will remain engaged with IBB throughout the remaining cooling-off period and will continue to seek an agreement based on the framework recommended by Presidential Emergency Board 250,” said NCCC, referring to the three-member board appointed by President Joe Biden this summer that gathered testimony from both sides and came up with recommendations that could serve as a jumping-off point for a new contract.

IBB confirmed it is in a cooling-off period following its members’ decision. 

“The Boilermakers union fully expects to continue negotiating further toward a satisfactory contract in the future with the NCCC,” IBB said in a statement to FreightWaves.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.