Dallas County

Looming Railroad Strike Could Leave DFW Businesses Waiting on Goods, Products

Two union groups say if they can not reach a deal workers may go on strike Friday

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The threat of a national railroad strike looms closer as unions representing freight-rail workers say if they can’t reach a deal with big railroad companies like Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway, workers may go on strike as early as Friday bringing train cars on rail lines to a halt.

Two unions representing thousands of rail employees across the country are pushing companies for better quality-of-life benefits for employees.

Texas has more rail miles and more railroad workers than anywhere else in the United States.

Allan Rutter, a researcher with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, said the pandemic showed railroad workers how important they were. Rutter said a strike is not inevitable, but the potential for one has a significant impact on the many industries that depend on the railroad.

DFW is the only major metropolitan area without a major water port, so instead, the region depends heavily on the railroad to bring in goods. A prolonged shutdown of the railroads would have a major impact on North Texas.

“Anything this dramatic would really be catastrophic and probably take us months to unwind,” said Guy Brown, with the Economic Development Corporation in Hutchins, part home to the International Inland Port of Dallas.

The 7,200 acres the port occupies in southern Dallas County is where railroads, warehouses and trucking converge to move goods across the region and country.

“We bring in a lot of consumer goods from all over the world and we are not a society that is used to shortages or disruptions, so that would have an immediate impact,” Brown said.

A disruption could affect the livelihood of the port’s 30,000 workers and mean empty store shelves and higher prices when you go to the store.

“One of the things we learned during the pandemic is how important supply chains are to so many parts of our industry and how tightly everybody depends on everybody else to do their job,” said Rutter.

The Biden administration is leading the negotiations. On Wednesday, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh planned to meet with both sides in Washington, D.C. A spokesperson for the Labor Department said talks were ongoing as of midday.

"The parties are negotiating in good faith and have committed to staying at the table today," the representative said.

A strike, which could affect about 60,000 workers and idle more than 7,000 trains, could cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion a day, CNBC reported.

The railroads, for their part, "have no plans to lock out workers Friday should negotiations not be successfully completed," the Association of American Railroads told CNBC.


Amtrak said on Wednesday that it would have to start canceling some trains ahead of the possible strike on Friday, including the Texas Eagle.

While Amtrak employees aren't part of a potential strike, the railroad runs much of its service on freight lines, meaning a strike would leave those routes unable to operate.

"Because the parties have not yet reached a resolution, Amtrak has begun to make initial service adjustments in response to a possible freight railroad service interruption that could occur later this week," the company said in a statement.

Amtrak said they will attempt to notify customers of changes at least 24 hours in advance and will offer refunds on trips not taken.

Glenn Billard flew from Seattle to Dallas on Wednesday morning. He says he planned to take an Amtrak train the last leg of his trip to Louisiana.

His plans were derailed when he arrived at the train station in downtown Dallas to find the Amtrak station closed and trains canceled.

"I was thinking the strike would start Friday so I figured I was safe so I got here and everything's just shut down," said Billard.

Unions say if they can’t reach a deal with big railroad companies — like Fort Worth’s BNSF — workers may go on strike as early as Friday. And starting tomorrow — Amtrak is suspending all long-distance service — including to and from Dallas and Fort Worth.
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