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Amtrak cancels all long-distance trains because a strike is coming up soon

Amtrak said that all long-distance passenger trains will not run because freight rail workers are planning to go on strike soon.

Even though Amtrak workers are not involved in the ongoing labor dispute, freight companies own and maintain over 21,000 track miles outside of the northeast corridor, which runs from Boston to Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday, members of one railroad workers union turned down a tentative deal with Union Pacific, Berkshire Hathaway's, and Norfolk Southern, which are the three largest railroad companies in the country. Two unions have voted to accept agreements, but three others are still holding out at the bargaining table. This is because union members can legally go on strike on Friday, according to federal rules.

Amtrak made the announcement on Wednesday. Earlier this week, it had already canceled 10 long-distance trains.

The Auto Train from Washington to Sanford, Florida, the Capitol Limited from Washington to Pittsburgh, the Cardinal from Washington to Chicago, and the Palmetto will not run on Thursday (south of Washington to Savannah, Georgia).

An Amtrak passenger train departs Chicago in the early evening headed south Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2022,
Amtrak workers are not striking, but over 21,000 of its tracks are owned and operated by freight railroads.

Other commuter railroads, like the Metra in Chicago, have also said that they will have to start cutting service on Thursday.

There are 12 unions that represent 115,000 workers, and they all have to vote on the tentative deals for them to go through. Nine people have agreed so far.

The deals are based on what the Presidential Emergency Board, which was set up by President Joe Biden this summer, said should happen. The Presidential Emergency Board called for 24% raises and $5,000 bonuses over a five-year period, starting in 2020.

The unions that represent train conductors and engineers have been waiting for the railroads to fix other problems, like the fact that their strict attendance policy makes it hard to take time off. People have said that the railroad's decision to cut its staff by one-third over the last six years has made the job harder.

They have asked the railroads to give workers unpaid time off so they can take care of personal things, like doctor's appointments, without getting in trouble.

The strike could add to the stress on supply chains that are already backed up and could raise the already high costs of inflation. Even a short shutdown would make it hard to ship fuel, chemicals, foods, cars, coal, and other goods and products that are brought in.

The Association of American Railroads, which is a trade group, says that a strike would cost the economy about $2 billion per day.

The Business Roundtable said that a strike would be "catastrophic" for the economy.

People wait on an Amtrak train platform at Union Station in Los Angeles
A railroad workers’ strike could have a major economic impact in addition to affecting passenger trains.

Analysts have said that there could be gas shortages in the Northeast if workers go on strike. Every day, 300,000 barrels of crude oil are moved by rail, and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers says that this could cause gasoline shortages.

The Biden Administration has been putting pressure on the freight companies and unions to come to an agreement so that there won't be a strike. They are also working on a plan to ship goods by truck if workers go on strike on Friday.

Congress has the power to stop the strike, and it has done so in the past when there were national labor disputes on the rails, but it's not clear if they will do so before the midterm elections.


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