Railroads and unions reached a tentative contract agreement Thursday morning, averting the threat of an imminent strike that would have ravaged the nation’s economy.
The Biden administration intervened in negotiations to push both parties toward a compromise ahead of Friday, the first day that workers could legally walk out.
The two largest rail unions said Thursday that the deal provides wins for workers that weren’t included in the previous contract proposals.
Here are five major gets in the agreement, according to the unions.
Time off for medical appointments
In the agreement, workers would be allowed to take time off for medical appointments without being penalized. This was a key sticking point that held up negotiations.
Leading rail unions warned that their members would not ratify an agreement that didn’t address sick time.
More time off
Workers were provided voluntarily assigned days off and given one additional paid day off. Rail workers have complained about widespread fatigue and attendance policies that complicate their ability to take time off for any reason.
Block health care hikes
The agreement blocks increases to health care copays and deductibles, a big get for workers. Unions said that the measure took 20 hours of negotiation to secure.
The deal protects two-person crews for the indefinite future, another top priority for workers who said that they faced increased safety risks by being forced to operate trains solo.
Workers will receive 24 percent raises over five years, back pay and cash bonuses. These terms were similar to those recommended by a White House-appointed board on the matter last month.
The deal will now go to union members for a vote. Workers had pledged to vote down a contract based on the presidential board’s guidance because it didn’t address their concerns about unsafe working conditions and insufficient sick leave.
“We listened when our members told us that a final agreement would require improvements to their quality of life as well as economic gains,” the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the SMART Transportation Division, which together represent nearly 60,000 rail workers, said in a statement.
GOP senators on Wednesday attempted to pass a resolution that would have enacted the board’s terms, but Democrats blocked it, arguing that the parties should have time to negotiate a deal.