ILMA Newsroom

Freight Rail Strike Looms

Freight Rail Strike Looms

The first national freight rail strike in 30 years could start this Friday if the bargaining teams for two rail unions and railroad management cannot successfully conclude labor talks.

While it was announced last night that two additional rail unions have reached tentative agreements with Class I freight railroads on new contracts, the two unions—representing more than 100,000 engineers and conductors who make up the two-person crews on each freight train—have been unable to resolve their contract differences. The Labor Secretary is scheduled to meet today with negotiators.

ILMA has heard from a handful of members that, in advance of the possible rail strike, rail car shipments of base oils and additives to their facilities have been embargoed by the railroads. They note that already stressed supply chains will take even longer to recover, if at all, if the national freight rail system is shuttered at the end of this week.

The Biden administration has an interagency group exploring how other modes of transportation, especially trucking, can help keep goods flowing if the national freight rail system is shut down. White House officials say that the administration wants to give priority to food, energy supplies and healthcare products.

ILMA today sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to intervene to avert a freight rail stoppage, as Congress has the authority to extend the strike deadline and to impose contract terms. The Association pointed out that a significant percentage of its members receive raw materials by rail and depend on the railroads for timely shipment; even a brief freight rail stoppage will have severe effects. The letter stressed the importance of lubricants to the entire U.S. economy.

ILMA also sent a letter today to President Biden requesting that lubricant products be included in any list of commodities to be given shipping priority if there is a rail stoppage. The Association noted that lubricants are essential to keeping the U.S. economy moving, including the trucks, ships and airplanes needed to deliver the priority products. 

ILMA will keep members apprised of developments.