SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – The U.S.’s third largest railroad union rejected a deal with employers, now renewing the possibility of a strike that could cripple the economy.

At this time, both sides have more than a month to reach a new agreement, but the longer it takes, the more likely a strike could happen. Which would worsen the existing supply and demand issues.

The unions were offered a five-year contract, with a 24 percent raise and $5,000 in bonuses. Over half the track maintenance workers represented by the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division opposed this offer.

Mainly due to the lack of paid time off, after nearly one-third of their jobs were eliminated in the past six years. Four other railroad unions did approve the agreement, including CSX, which has tracks here in western Massachusetts. All 12 unions representing 115,000 workers must ratify their contracts to prevent a strike.

The National Carriers’ Conference Committee, which represents the country’s freight railroads in national collective bargaining negotiations, said it was “disappointed” with the decision.
The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way union said it agreed to delay any strike until five days after Congress reconvenes in mid-November to allow time for additional negotiations.

22News spoke with a business owner in Springfield who explains the challenges new businesses are already facing in the current economy.

Asif Khan had planned to open his new restaurant, L’Amour on Chestnut Street in Springfield by November but due to supply and demand issues, the open date is now postponed to 2023.

“We keep calling vendors. They don’t have products, everything’s back ordered. Equipment like appliances and plumbing supplies are hard to find and expensive,” said Khan.

These challenges are frustrating Khan and his staff just trying to bring a part of the community back to life. The limited amount of supplies isn’t the only issue. Businesses across the region are having a difficult time finding staff.

“Everyone is looking to hire. I mean there are two job openings for every candidate that’s on the market,” said Anthony Ciak, Director of Technical Staffing at FIT Staffing.

Potential applicants have become demanding with requests to employers looking for work-from-home and hybrid options. Current and potential supply chain issues coupled with a lack of staff are presenting serious challenges for the hospitality industry.

“At this point, we’re all used to uncertainty, we’re all prepared, we all just keep pivoting and doing the things we need to do,” said Springfield Regional Chamber President Diana Szynal.

The Regional Chamber says the best thing consumers can do is buy locally and be patient with businesses and those businesses will do what it takes to stay afloat in uncertain times.

“We’re trying, it’s tough right now. I hope it gets easier,” said Khan.