US feed and grain sector relieved as major rail strike averted

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/William Langford
© GettyImages/William Langford

Related tags rail Strike labor Grain

US railroads and labor union representatives reached a tentative agreement yesterday in time to avert a nationwide rail shutdown in advance of today’s deadline.

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) commended the action. Earlier this week, that industry group had urged leaders of railroads and rail labor unions to remain at the negotiating table, noting that the economic damage of a rail shutdown would have immediate impacts on the US supply chain.

The deal announced yesterday morning extends the cooling-off period until union members can ratify it.

Railroad workers were ready to strike over unmet demands for higher pay and better working conditions, following almost three years of contract negotiations that had not delivered.

The deal includes a 24% wage increase and bonuses, as well as changes to existing policies on time off which had been a major sticking point for workers.

"This is a win for tens of thousands of workers and for the dignity of their work,"​ said US president, Joe Biden, during a news conference. "They earned and deserve these benefits, and this is a great deal for both sides."

"We reached an agreement that will keep our critical rail system working and avoid disruptions of our economy,"​ he added.

Rail transport key for grain supply 

NGFA President and CEO Mike Seyfert said: “The efficient operation of our rail network, which moves 25% of all US grain, is crucial to a functioning agricultural economy. NGFA members, which include 1,000 companies that handle US grains and oilseeds, commend both parties for working in good faith toward an agreement and preventing severe economic damage.”

US ag secretary, Tom Vilsack, fully understood the threat to the food and ag supply chain and made sure it was represented in the negotiations, continued Seyfert.

“Resilient and reliable rail service is essential to the daily operations of NGFA members. We thank our rail industry partners for working to get this deal and we encourage quick ratification by the labor unions,” ​added the NGFA lead.


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