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Empire Builder back on track following union deal

by JEREMY WEBER
Daily Inter Lake | September 15, 2022 12:00 PM

Freight rail companies and unions representing tens of thousands of workers reached a tentative agreement to avoid what would have been an economically damaging strike, after all-night talks brokered by Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh, President Biden said early Thursday morning.

With a tentative deal reached to prevent a freight railroad strike, Amtrak is working to get its schedule back in order.

"Amtrak is working to quickly restore canceled trains and reaching out to impacted customers to accommodate on first available departures," Amtrak said in a statement Thursday morning.

The deal between railroad unions and management was announced just after 5 a.m. ET Thursday in a statement from the White House.

Amtrak said it is working to resume service that was suspended ahead of a potential work stoppage. The passenger rail began suspending service Tuesday amid the threat of the strike.

It was unclear if any of Thursday’s departures would be restored, but the company said it would provide updates to passengers.

According to the Amtrak website, the Empire Builder route, which travels through Montana on its way from Chicago to Seattle, will resume service as early as Saturday.

Most Amtrak routes outside the Northeast Corridor operate at least partially on tracks or rights of way owned by freight railroads. Those freight tracks likely wouldn’t have been available to passenger trains in the event of a widespread strike.

The agreement now heads to union members for a ratification vote, which is a standard procedure in labor talks. While the vote is tallied, workers have agreed not to strike.

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