(La Junta, CO) -- BNSF workers are waiting after it was announced late last week there would be a 30 day cooling off period following what's been described as intense labor negations between the company and the union.
According to Railwayage.com, BNSF workers are part of a union that is part of 12 unions bargaining and they've been at it quite a while, since January of 2020. Covid slowed down the process then but now they've been back to meeting in person to bargain, since January of 2022.
So where are we now?
An article from Smart-union-org explains it like this. The National Mediation Board who was in talks with the unions urged both parties to agree to resolve the dispute in accordance with section 8 of the Railway Labor Act. It means that if either side rejects the NMB's proffer (which is an offer to the parties to arbitrate any remaining issues), a 30 day cooling off period starts. During this time, it's business as usual. Each union has a process where they can decide whether or not this is ok with them. They can reject it.
So now what?
President Biden can step in at any point during this time and appoint a special board, a Presidential Emergency Board, or PEB. These members, usually three to five can start a hearing and make recommendations. Once the board is appointed, however, there can be another 30 day cooling off period issued. So this could go on for quite a while.
Either party can reject the Presidential Emergency Boards suggestions and if the clock runs out during the cool-off period and there's been no resolution and disputes aren't resolved the parties can seek self-help.
When it gets to this point, Congress can step in and pass a law that will bring an end to the dispute. Unions are urging their members to contact their legislators to let them know of concerns. However, according to ABC news, union officials are hopeful that a labor friendly President would appoint a labor friendly PEB, Presidential Emergency Board. https://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/railroad-talks-stall-biden-pick-review-board-85396305
One of the issues, and perhaps the biggest one that's received a lot of attention has been an attendance policy that BNSF put into play in February called the Hi-Viz policy. The policy gives workers points and deducts them as the workers take days off. The policy has been called too harsh.
The policy was adjusted in June. This succinct article by Justin Franz in Railfan explains it.
Should it happen, a strike among rail workers is expected to further exacerbate the supply chain issues.
BNSF employs local and regional workers to SE Colorado with a yard in La Junta, Pueblo, and Trinidad.