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Unions and Corporations Clash on the Rails

by Alexis Barton

Early in September, unions of railroad workers across the country came close to an all-out strike. The issue at hand for many of these workers revolved around working conditions, paid sick leave, and compensation. These issues have become central to national discussions regarding workers’ rights, but the railroad industry has seemed to lag behind in making progress to benefit workers. 

Railroads are still central to American infrastructure despite the common idea that they are an antiquated mode of transportation. These systems are integral both to the transportation of goods across the country, but also the transportation of people. In the event of an all-out strike, commuter trains would likely see impacts in addition to trains carrying goods. Though a railroad strike in 2022 may not bring the nation to a halt in the same way that it would have a century ago, the national supply chain would see changes nevertheless. 

The strike was tentatively avoided as an agreement was proposed between workers and corporations. For now, workers will remain in their previous system and contracts, but a new agreement is under way. According to the Washington Post, the changes in the proposed agreement includes a 24% increase in wages by 2024, a $1,000 annual bonus over a five year span, and better healthcare coverage. These changes, if ratified, could result in the average annual salary for railroad workers to exceed $100,000 (2022). This agreement still needs to be ratified, but it brings some amount of hope to railroad workers across the country. 

Amidst national conversations about cost of living and inflation, this strike serves as an important reminder that the rights of workers are not ensured across professions and that the livelihoods of individuals are at stake when these policies are created.