Members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) rejected a labor contract with the freight railroads on Monday, sending the two sides back to the bargaining table and resetting the countdown to a potential work stoppage.

More than 56% of BMWED membership voted against ratification of the tentative national agreement reached with the Class I freight railroads on Sept. 11.

The Biden-sponsored deal included a 24% wage increase, $5,000 bonuses and an additional paid day off.

BMWED represents about 26,000 workers who build and maintain the tracks, bridges, buildings and other structures on railroads across the country, according to its website.

“The result of the vote indicates there is a lot of work to do to establish goodwill and improve the morale that has been broken by the railroads’ executives and Wall Street hedge fund managers,” BMWED President Tony D. Cardwell said in a statement.

“I trust that railroad management understands that sentiment as well. Railroaders are discouraged and upset with working conditions and compensation and hold their employer in low regard.”

BMWED will go back to the bargaining table for additional negotiations with the railroads. If a deal cannot be negotiated, BMWED could go on strike after Nov. 14.

A new labor deal for union members has been in the works since January 2020, but negotiations with the railroads failed to progress. A federal mediation board took up the negotiations but released the parties from those efforts earlier this summer. 

Two of the largest labor unions — those representing locomotive engineers and train conductors — were the last to reach a tentative agreement with the railroads. Their agreement averted a rail strike that could have begun as early as Sept. 16.

So far, only four of the 12 unions have ratified the national agreement with the railroads: the American Train Dispatchers Association, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Transportation Communications Union and the the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen.

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