A lack of consensus among labor unions on an agreement with the largest U.S. freight railroads could spell trouble for an already-strained American supply chain.
Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 19 rejected an agreement negotiated by the union’s leadership with the railroads, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.
IAM has reached a deal with the railroads to not begin a strike until Sept. 29, allowing for a broader timeframe for the parties to come to an agreement, according to the publication.
There 12 unions unions that must agree to tentative deals before Friday’s deadline, which begins at 12:01 a.m. Should no deal be reached by the deadline, the labor unions can legally begin to strike.
In the event that no deal is made, industries are preparing for the supply chain fallout that will ensue due to the nation’s rail system coming to a standstill.
In a Wednesday interview with WBRC Fox 6 News, Alabama Trucking Association president and CEO Mark Colson said that the strike would place immense strain on the state’s trucking industry.
Alabama is short thousands of truckers, while the current drivers are having to work additional overtime hours to make up for the workforce shortfall, according to Colson.
“We hope that this gains resolution and we keep a really efficient supply chain moving and meeting the demand by extensively collaborating with the rail industry,” said Colson. “Our hope is that that gets resolved and we don’t have that kind of break down in the supply chain.”
The national monetary loss in supplies will amount to $2 billion if no agreement is met, according to U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn).
“[H]ere’s what you have: You have 12 different unions that run the railroad across our country,” said Tuberville. “President Biden put a group together to overcome the differences over the past two months — I’ll give him credit for that.”
“Out of these 12 unions, I think they’re close to having 10 of these unions agree with the terms that have been laid forth. But all of them have to agree. If they do go on strike… it starts [Friday] night at midnight. And here’s what’ll happen: We’ll lose, in this country, $2 billion worth of supplies a day,” he said. “Our supply chain is already in trouble because of the pandemic. But with this group going down with the train system completely shutting down, it would cost our farmers in Alabama tremendous amounts of money.”
Echoing Colson’s concerns over the pressure that the trucking industry would face, Tuberville said the effects on truckers nationwide would be “unfathomable.”
“You can’t move gravel, you can’t move grain. Basically, the stat that I saw was — if they’re able to shut down the trains — we’d have to have 467,000 more trucks on the road every day, which you can’t have,” said the senator. “We can’t find the drivers now with what we have… That’s unfathomable. The unions need to work this out. President Biden, if they do go on strike, we’re going to find out what he’s made of. Because he knows, and the country knows, we can’t run this country without trains.”
“And so he might have to come in and make some kind of executive order, but the ball’s in his court.”
Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL