Two weeks after Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) No. 250 issued its recommendations on the stalled contract negotiations between 12 rail labor unions and the carriers, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers announced on Sept. 1 that it has reached a tentative agreement with the National Carriers’ Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents most U.S. Class I freight railroads in national collective bargaining.
The tentative agreement implements the PEB’s recommendations, which includes a 24% general compounded wage increase during the five-year period from 2020 to 2024 and an annual $1,000 service recognition bonus. These are the biggest wage increases in 47 years, IBEW said.
According to IBEW, the tentative agreement ensures no additional design changes to the health and welfare plan but puts a reset on the employee cost of the plan. There are also multiple improvements to it, increasing the annual maximum for hearing benefits from $600 to $2,000, removing age limits on speech therapy, and providing coverage for applied behavioral analysis with age or dollar limits for those with autism spectrum disorder. The agreement also contains an additional paid personal day per year.
“I want to thank the IBEW’s rail bargaining team members for their hard work and patience in coming to this agreement,” said IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson. “I also want to acknowledge President Biden and the members of the PEB for their efforts to bring management and labor together to negotiate a fair contract. It’s been a long and tough process, but we’ve finally reached an agreement that achieves more than 70% of what we were asking for, including historic wage gains for our railroad members.”
“The freight rail industry is crucial to our economy, and the men and women who keep it moving deserve a fair deal. We didn’t win everything we wanted, but this agreement is a step in the right direction, and we recommend members support it,” added Stephenson.
Ratification ballots will be mailed to every IBEW freight rail member and counted on Sept. 28.
This agreement is the second to be reached since 250 issued settlement recommendations on Aug. 16. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Rail Division reached a tentative agreement with NCCC on Aug. 29.
Both agreements follow Zoom and in-person meetings held on Aug. 25 and Aug. 26, respectively, between The Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), along with the other 10 unions involved in national bargaining to “determine if PEB 250’s recommendations could serve as a basis for a tentative agreement,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson and BLET President Dennis Pierce announced in an Aug. 27 joint statement.
A tentative agreement between SMART-TD, BLET and the NCCC has not been reached but Ferguson and Pierce said the two unions “remain committed” to negotiate.
Of the 125,000 unionized rail workers affected by this round of collective bargaining, IBEW represents 5,800. IAM represents 6,600. TCU (including Carmen) represents 13,000. The two largest are SMART-TD (37,400) and BLET (24,700), with BMWE third (23,900).