Will The Railroad Deal Hold?

Last Thursday the White House took a victory lap over brokering an eleventh hour contract for the nation's railroad workers, thereby averting a nationwide strike.

Now the question is “will the deal pass a vote by the union rank and file?” And the answer may not be “Yes”.

For the strike threat to end, workers would need to feel that the proposed contract is far stronger than the deal offered by the PEB. A survey of rail workers at the SMART Transportation Division found that nearly 8 in 10 would have voted to reject that contract.

As I observed last week before the deal was announced, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

To quote then-Prime Minister Theresa May on the status of Brexit negotiations to take the UK out of the European Union: “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.” No railroad union is under contract until every railroad union is under contract.

That principle still applies, whether or not the White House understands that.

Regardless of how others perceive the merits and demerits of the unions’ demands, the unions perceive they have leverage to see their demands are met. If the deal brokered by the White House looks like the “cram-down" deal suggested by the Presidential Emergency Board assembled last month, the unions may very well vote to reject the deal.

Will the contract pass? I do not know. I do know that if it does not pass the country can look forward to a bitter and costly and inflationary railroad strike.