News Posts

Freight Railroad National Negotiations

The Rail Unions comprising the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition (CBC),
negotiating together in the current round of National Negotiations, have issued the following statement:

The CBC and the nation’s Rail Carriers first met concerning the November 1, 2019 Section 6 Notices in January 2020. Although the COVID 19 Pandemic has made meetings for groups of this size challenging, the parties continued to meet virtually to make presentations concerning their proposals throughout 2020. Additional meetings have now been scheduled for early 2021.

While CBC and the Rail Carriers continue to share and discuss all aspects of what would be necessary to reach a voluntary agreement, the Rail Carriers have not made any proposals worthy of consideration by the membership of the CBC Unions. The parties will continue to meet in good faith as we move into 2021, fully cognizant that it is our members who must ratify any voluntary agreement.

The unions comprising the Coordinated Bargaining Coalition are: the American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA); the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen / Teamsters Rail Conference (BLET); the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS); the International Association of Machinists (IAM); the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB); the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers/SEIU (NCFO); the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW); the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU); the Transportation Communications Union / IAM (TCU), including TCU’s Brotherhood Railway Carmen Division (BRC); and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART–TD).

Collectively, the CBC unions represent more than 105,000 railroad workers covered by the various organizations’ national agreements, and comprise over 80% of the workforce who will be impacted by this round of negotiations.


January 15, 2021 Washington, DC — Twenty-two transportation labor leaders issue this statement calling on prioritizing safety in advance of the Presidential Inauguration:

“As the elected leaders of transportation unions that collectively represent millions of frontline employees, we are calling on every arm of federal, state, and local government to protect American workers and the public, ensure the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and safeguard our democracy during the inauguration. While we stand firmly by the rights of every American to have and to share differing points of view, to peaceably assemble in support of those points of view, and to petition the government in hopes of affecting the direction of our country and its policies, these rights do not allow for violent attacks on our fellow Americans or our democratic institutions by domestic terrorists.

“The January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol threatened our democracy and thousands of American lives. The actions taken by the individuals who attacked our Capitol, the right-wing militants who led them in doing so, and the elected government officials who enabled and even encouraged them, run counter to the very spirit of democracy and civil society. As a nation, it is incumbent upon each of us to take a firm stand against lawless mob rule by those who seek to upend the American values we hold so very sacred.

“Unfortunately, transportation workers and our passengers—as is too often the case—were placed squarely in harm’s way during, before, and after this repulsive assault on American democracy. We witnessed airline, transit, and rail workers diverted from their public safety duties, threatened and harassed for doing their jobs, and assaulted in the line of duty. These essential workers—already under tremendous strain from the impacts of the ongoing pandemic—have sacrificed in service to our country during this time of our greatest need and it is all of our responsibility to ensure their safety and security. Amid ongoing threats of future violence—including Inauguration Day calls to arms by right-wing militants—frontline transportation workers are left wondering how they can protect themselves, their passengers, and our country going forward. This has gone too far, and it must stop.

“When it comes to our aviation, passenger rail, and transit systems, the working people who maintain and operate them, and the passengers who rely on them, safety must be the priority. There can be no exceptions. We are calling on the Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation, as well as their constituent agencies—in concert with transportation operators and federal, state, and local law enforcement—to use the full weight of the law to ensure safety onboard planes, trains, and buses, and pursue the strongest penalties against passengers who seek to sow chaos or incite violence.

“We stand in solidarity with all transportation workers across America as they continue to place their own well-being on the line in service to our country. We condemn the actions of President Trump, those in Congress who fanned the flames of hate and lawlessness, and every individual whose own actions that day and in the future undermine the rule of law in our democracy.”

Jerry C. Boles
Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen
James T. Callahan
General President
International Union of Operating Engineers
Joe DePete
Air Line Pilots Association, International
Dean Devita
National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU
Jeremy R. Ferguson
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and
Transportation Workers – Transportation Division
Newton B. Jones
International President
International Brotherhood of Boilermakers
Everett Kelley
National President
American Federation of Government Employees
Arthur Maratea
National President
Transportation Communications Union/IAM
Donald Marcus
International President
International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots
F. Leo McCann
American Train Dispatchers Association
Sara Nelson
International President
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA
Sito Pantoja
General Vice President, Transportation
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
Mike Perrone
National President
Professional Aviation Safety Specialists
Greg Regan
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO
Paul Rinaldi
National Air Traffic Controllers Association
Fredric V. Rolando
National President
National Association of Letter Carriers
John Samuelsen
International President
Transport Workers Union of America
Joseph Sellers, Jr.
General President
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers
Christopher M. Shelton
Communications Workers of America
Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
D. Taylor
UNITE HERE International Union
Randi Weingarten
American Federation of Teachers

Statement from the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, President Dean Devita on the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“The NCFO abhors the actions taken by those who invaded the U.S. Capitol on January 6. We had no knowledge of this individual’s participation in the events of that day, and we are disappointed that anyone would engage in that type of conduct. We look forward to working with the Biden Administration and the new Congress, and specifically to working with both branches of government for positive pro-worker policies and advancement of transportation and infrastructure projects.”

Statement by NCFO President Devita on the nomination of Pete Buttigieg as Secretary of Transportation

Pete Buttigieg is exactly what Transportation needs; Union Workers in the transportation industry will have an advocate in the Secretary of Transportation.

Buttigieg made the following statement:

“This is a moment of tremendous opportunity, and now is the time to build back better through modern and sustainable infrastructure that creates millions of good-paying union jobs.”

Devita continued, “Finally, we got someone who will fight for good solid union jobs.”

As a former Mayor, Buttigieg understands that our economy depends on our transportation systems and will address the needs of our transportation infrastructure from rail tunnels such as the Gateway Program, a true commitment to Amtrak and all railroads in our Nation. 

I look forward to working with a person who has the vision of an updated National Transportation System and a person who supports union workers!

I also want to thank Pete Buttigieg for his military service to the United States of America.

On the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Act, Congress should consider its collateral damage to the Nation and take proper action to repair the railroad industry.

Over the last several years, railroad industry stakeholders have become increasingly troubled by the effects of the new business model adopted by the Class I railroads. This so-called “precision scheduled railroading” focuses extensively on cost-cutting as a primary objective. Rail shippers complain of a deterioration of service and “de-marketing” of rail service. Rail employment was cut by about 20% in the last few years, which has necessarily impacted both rail safety and the quality of service.

Below is a statement endorsed by all of our rail partners from all of the rail unions, which explains how the confluence of dramatic deregulation, followed by government approval of the major merger and control transactions, that left America with a handful of mega-carriers, leading to the problems currently experienced by shippers, rail workers and communities.  

On the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Act, it had substantial adverse effects on rail employees, and has facilitated the new rail business model that has further reduced employment and led to deterioration of service.

The major railroads are celebrating this anniversary. That is not surprising because deregulation of the railroad industry, along with post-Staggers government approval of mergers and control transactions, that have produced a highly concentrated, but lightly regulated, industry, have combined to produce a 20-year run of historic profits for the railroads, and record returns for their shareholders. In the recent past, shippers had no complaints about Staggers because shipping rates declined in real dollars; but they now worry about the quality of service and railroad responsiveness to their needs; as a concentrated, but deregulated industry that has little need to answer to its customers.  

This is a particularly inopportune time to celebrate passage of the Staggers Act because, in recent years, finance interests have led or pressured the railroads to exploit the deregulatory regime formulated when they were in economic distress, to implement so-called “precision scheduled railroading”, and other cost-cutting measures that have eroded service and eliminated tens of thousands of good paying railroad jobs.  

One group of major industry stakeholders never celebrated the Staggers Act: railroad workers. Between the passage of the Act and completion of the major merger and control transactions, rail industry employment was substantially reduced (from about 500,000 in 1980 to about 250,000 in the early 2000s).

Among other things, the Staggers Act facilitated sales of rail lines to smaller railroads that employed fewer workers, paid less and had less beneficial work rules. Those sales were accomplished without traditional employee protections. At first, the Interstate Commerce Commission approved these types of sales after concluding that the lines to be sold were likely to be abandoned. But then it began to approve sales of what it called “marginally profitable” lines (which, by definition, were somewhat profitable). The major rail carriers protected their own interests in these transactions; they placed restrictions on the sales (physical or contractual) so that the purchaser railroads could interchange traffic only with the seller carriers; that way the major carriers divested themselves of less profitable lines which gathered local freight, while ensuring that they retained the long haul movement of the freight generated on those lines. Rail Labor characterized these as sham transactions, but the ICC approved them citing the Staggers Act and the deregulatory spirit of the Act. The ICC also allowed companies that owned existing rail carriers to acquire new lines that often connected with the lines of their existing subsidiaries without employee protections that were required when rail carriers acquired lines from other rail carriers, by using the scheme of creation of new subsidiaries that the ICC treated as non-carriers since they were new corporations, even though they were commonly owned and controlled with existing carriers.

In approving the major merger and control transactions of the 1990s that reduced the number of Class I carriers to a mere handful, the ICC and Surface Transportation Board relied on Staggers Act amendments and the deregulatory mandate of the Staggers Act. Those transactions were approved based on the notion that shippers and the public would benefit from the consolidations. The railroads asserted, and the ICC and STB agreed, that mega-carriers would provide better and faster service through longer-end-to-end runs, reduced interchanges, and greater system velocity; that efficiencies would be achieved that would result in savings that would be passed along to shippers and the public in general; and that the economies of scale available to larger carriers would allow for increased investment in rail infrastructure. 

During the same period that Congress and the ICC and STB deregulated the railroads and facilitated and approved consolidations as in the public interest, the agencies dramatically increased their regulation of Rail Labor by allowing the merging and commonly controlled rail carriers to use agency processes to gain dramatic changes in rates of pay, rules and working conditions outside the procedures of the Railway Labor Act. When the final big control transaction had been completed, railroad industry employment had been effectively halved, and rates of pay, rules and working conditions were forcibly and dramatically changed under the auspices of ICC and STB authorizations.

In the post-Staggers minimal regulation environment, after the big merger and control transactions were consummated, the profits of the new mega-carriers soared. And for a while, the railroads followed-through on their representations that service would improve, and infrastructure investments would increase. But several years ago, hedge funds and private equity interests took note of railroad profitability and the very light nature of the regulatory regime for such a concentrated industry. There were attempted hostile takeovers of major railroads, and so-called activist investors increased their stakes in railroads; these financial interests promised to institute practices to reduce operating ratios (costs relative to expenses) and increase profits by dramatically cutting costs and service, by focusing on easier to serve/high profit ratio customers, eliminating flexibility in pick-ups and deliveries of rail cars, requiring customers to conform to rigid schedules and lengthening trains (with some as long as 3 miles). This was accomplished through the so-called Precision Scheduled Railroading operating method. At the same time, capital infrastructure work was reduced to further improve operating ratios. As rail carriers that pursued this path saw their operating ratios decline, and their stock prices increased, other railroads adopted similar business models. Shipper complaints escalated. The STB held hearings and tinkered with complaint programs, but it generally was of the view that there was little it could do under the post-Staggers de-regulatory regime. In the meantime, rail employment again took a precipitous decline, from about 245,000 in 2015 to under 200,000 in January of 2020. The profits of the major railroads have skyrocketed over this several year period.

As the 40th anniversary of the Staggers Act approaches, Members of Congress, the STB and industry stakeholders should consider whether the current regulatory regime, that was developed when the railroads were in financial turmoil, and well before agency approval of the big merger and control transactions, makes sense today. Consolidation of the industry was approved because the transactions were deemed to be in the public interest. And with those approvals and the exclusivity that flows from holding an operating certificate comes the responsibility to provide adequate and responsive service. But the financial interests that are currently driving the industry have ignored those aspects of the approvals and the certificates. While a return to the heavy regulatory scheme developed before railroads had competition from aviation and trucking on the federal interstate highway system would not be appropriate, a regulatory approach recalibrated to recognize the reality of the industry as it is today is warranted. This recalibration is necessary to ensure that rail customers receive adequate and responsive service, and that the industry continues to provide good jobs for railroad workers.  

American Train Dispatchers Association  

Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen/IBT 

Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division/IBT  

Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen 

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 19 

International Association of Sheet Metal Air Rail and Transportation Workers- 

Mechanical Division 

International Brotherhood of Boilermakers 

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers 

International Association of Sheet Metal Air Rail and Transportation Workers- 

Transportation Division 

National Conference of Firemen and Oilers 32BJ/SEIU 

Transportation Communications Union (TCU/IAM)

Transport Workers Union of America