Threat of freight rail strike delayed until early December

By Erin Voegele | November 09, 2022

The threat of a freight railroad strike has been pushed back from Nov. 20 to at least Dec. 4 after the BMWED, a union representing rail workers, has extended its cooling off period. A rail strike would negatively impact U.S. ethanol producers.

The Association of American Railroads on Nov. 9 announced freight railroads and BMWED have extended their cooling off period until at least Dec. 4 to align with other rail unions yet to ratify their tentative agreements. As a result of the agreement, members of the two largest rail unions – BLET and SMART-TD – will complete ratification votes that are currently underway prior to any potential work stoppage, according to AAR.

“This agreement to extend the cooling off period affords all unionized employees the opportunity to vote on their agreements free of a looming strike threat,” said Ian Jefferies, president and CEO of AAR. “Our goal remains the same — successfully completing this round of bargaining — and we stand ready to reach an agreement with BMWED based upon the Presidential Emergency Board’s recommendations.”

To date, seven labor unions have ratified agreements based on the recommendations of three experienced arbitrators appointed by President Biden, with three other ratification votes pending, AAR said in a statement.

The Renewable Fuels Association is calling on the railroads and unions to quickly find a permanent solution. “While we are relieved to see an imminent strike and shutdown has been averted, kicking the can down the tracks is not a sustainable, long-term solution,” said Geoff Cooper, president and CEO of the RFA. “The ethanol industry relies on rail to ship more than 70 percent of the Renewable fuel it produces each year; we need the railroads and unions to quickly hammer out a more permanent solution that will provide certainty for our members and their customers. If the railways shut down, so too do our nation’s biorefineries.”