Rail workers could go on strike as soon as this Friday, Sept. 16.

Contract negotiations stalled during the pandemic for some 115,000 U.S. freight railroad workers. Workers are planning a national strike as a way to forward their negotiations with rail owners about stagnant wages, heavy workloads, unsafe conditions, and strict attendance policies.

Labor negotiators remained in talks to prevent the strike as the AmNews went to press.

Train engineers’ and conductors’ unions say the main sticking point is the fact that companies don’t want to accept the union’s proposal for sick time policies.

The larger media is covering these negotiations because the rail strike could threaten U.S. supply chains. Other than goods for shopping, according to statistics from the Association of American Railroads, one-third of U.S. exports travel by rail, the railroads account for nearly 68% of freight rail mileage, and 70% of the miles traveled by Amtrak trains are on tracks owned by freight railroads.

The presidents of SMART Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Teamsters Rail Conference issued a statement claiming rail owners are resorting to corporate terrorism: “This completely unnecessary attack on rail shippers by these highly profitable Class I railroads is no more than corporate extortion. Our Unions remain at the bargaining table and have given the rail carriers a proposal that we would be willing to submit to our members for ratification, but it is the rail carriers that refuse to reach an acceptable agreement. In fact, it was abundantly clear from our negotiations over the past few days that the railroads show no intentions of reaching an agreement with our Unions, but they cannot legally lock out our members until the end of the cooling-off period. Instead, they are locking out their customers beginning on Monday and further harming the supply chain in an effort to provoke congressional action.”

The Biden White House is making contingency plans in case there is a disruption to vital supplies that could threaten the nation’s economy.

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