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Train dispatchers union ratifies labor agreement

American Train Dispatchers Association becomes 4th union to approve deal

ATDA union members have ratified a new labor agreement by a 64% vote. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Members of the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA) have ratified the labor contract with the freight railroads, joining three other unions that have already done so.

The new labor deal covers those working on the Belt Railway of Chicago, BNSF (NYSE: BRK.B), Conrail, CSX (NASDAQ: CSX), Indiana Harbor Belt, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC), Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis and CN (NYSE: CNI) subsidiary Wisconsin Central. 

The contract calls for a 14.1% pay increase, as well as retroactive reimbursement averaging $14,500 and $3,000 in service recognition bonuses, ATDA said.  About 64% of the union’s membership voted in favor of approval. 

“The ATDA would like to thank all of our sister unions, attorneys and consultants who provided invaluable assistance in this long and difficult round of bargaining,” ATDA said in a news release.

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee, the group representing the freight railroads in contract negotiations, said there are tentative agreements with eight other labor organizations that remain subject to ratification. 

A new labor deal for union members has been in the works since January 2020, but negotiations with the railroads soon 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 in September. The guidance was 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 rail 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.