Railroads and unions continue to negotiate their contract but remain at an impasse over quality of life issues regarding sick time and penalties for missing work. As a result, the potential for a national rail strike or lockout could occur on September 16 at 12:01 AM, following a federally mandated 60-day cooling off period that prohibited either side from a work stoppage. Without a labor agreement or congressional action to enforce a contract or extend the cooling-off period, the national freight railroads will be at a standstill beginning Friday.
Many rail providers have already stopped accepting shipments of hazardous goods, security-sensitive materials, and over-dimensional cargo this week in anticipation of a work stoppage. If a strike occurs, it will be the first national railroad strike in 30 years.
As of Monday, most of the unions announced tentative agreements. However, two groups of train crew members, including engineers and conductors—the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division—have not reached a settlement and represent about half the workforce.
A strike could affect the U.S. economy by as much as $2 billion per day in lost economic output and would impact various industries, including energy, automobiles, agriculture, and retail, all of which depend on rail to transport goods. A shutdown would also cause a domino effect and further disrupt an already strained supply chain.