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IBEW approves new railroad labor contract

IBEW the 3rd union to vote to approve labor agreement

Rail workers with IBEW voted to ratify a new labor agreement. (Photo: Shutterstock/APChanel)

Rail workers with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have voted to ratify the union’s labor contract with U.S. freight railroads.

IBEW joins two other unions, theTransportation Communications Union/IAM and the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen, that voted to ratify their contracts. IBEW has nearly 4,000 members working for member carriers of the National Carriers Conference Committee (NCCC), the group representing the railroads in labor negotiations.

“The wage and benefits gains achieved under this agreement would not have been possible without the hard work of our Railroad Department staff, the solidarity of our members and the intervention of President Joe Biden and his administration,” IBEW International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said in a release. “We thank everyone involved and look forward to continuing to do the work to keep America’s freight moving safely and on time.”

Tentative agreements with nine other labor organizations remain subject to ratification, according to NCCC.

IBEW’s actions come a day after the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 19 said it had reached a new tentative agreement with the U.S. Class I railroads, after initially rejecting an earlier agreement in mid-September. 

A new labor deal for union members has been in the works since January 2020, but negotiations between the unions and the railroads failed to progress. A federal mediation board took up the negotiations but released the parties from those efforts earlier this summer. 

The Presidential Emergency Board, a three-person, independent panel appointed by President Joe Biden, convened in July and August to come up with ways that the unions and railroads could resolve the impasse and issued recommendations last month. The recommendations were meant to serve as a jumping-off point for a new contract.

Two of the largest labor unions — those representing locomotive engineers and train conductors — were the last to reach a tentative agreement with the railroads. Their agreement averted a strike that could have begun as early as Sept. 16.

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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.