For nine decades, the freight railroads have conducted collective bargaining negotiations on a national, multi-employer basis. National bargaining has been remarkably successful in reaching contract settlements without crippling labor strikes. In fact, over the past 45 years, there have been only nine days of service disruptions arising from national rail bargaining; the last one was in 1992.
Because freight railroads are vital to the national economy and security – accounting for more intercity freight volume than any other mode of transportation – Congress has not been hesitant to intervene in bargaining disputes in order to ensure continuous service. However, most bargaining rounds are settled with voluntary agreements.
The last round of bargaining, covering almost all of railroads and 13 major unions, concluded in April 2012. The current round began in early 2015, and includes all Class I railroads and 13 major unions.