GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The prices you pay on most products are expected to go up if a national railroad worker strike happens at the end of this week.
Unions are asking for changes to time off policies and say employees are being overworked. A tentative agreement has been reached with nearly half of the unions that would include a 24% raise and bonuses, The Associated Press reports.
Professor Bruce Ferrin with Western Michigan University’s Haworth College of Business said a strike would have significant economic effects. He is most concerned about Union Pacific workers striking, which has a major operation at the Port of Long Beach.
“That’s going to put a pretty heavy dent into (the) ability to move containers out of the west coast, which is of course where most of the pacific trade comes in … to population centers in the Midwest,” Ferrin said.
Amtrak is canceling several long-distance trains because of concerns that a freight worker strike will impact service.
No routes in Michigan have been affected and a strike would not involve Amtrak workers.
“It’s hard to say how likely a rail strike is to happen,” Ferrin said. “I don’t think this is about money. I think it’s about scheduling and work rules.”
The current shortage of truck drivers means even greater challenges.
“With what’s going on in the trucking industry right now, you definitely don’t have the trucking capacity to completely replace what a railroad like Union Pacific could move,” Ferrin said.
It is not just prices that would be affected, the selection of products could be reduced.
“That’s a lot of consumer goods that you see on the shelves in stores like Walmart, Target, etc. that will not be able to get to their inland destinations,” Ferrin said.
The cooling off period for the negotiations ends on Friday. Congress has the authority to intervene but it is unclear if that will happen.