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Baltimore County

With rail strike averted, Camden, Brunswick and Penn MARC lines to operate normally, MTA says

Commuter trains on the Camden, Brunswick and Penn MARC lines will operate normally Friday as a potential strike by railroad workers has been averted, the Maryland Transit Administration announced Thursday afternoon.

“CSX Transportation has notified MDOT MTA that the potential strike by CSX labor unions in response to the ongoing labor dispute will not occur on Friday,” MTA said. CSX owns the Camden and Brunswick Maryland Area Regional Commuter lines and dispatches the trains.

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However, passengers should expect delays and possible train cancellations for several weeks on the Camden Line because of freight train congestion caused by the potential work stoppage, MTA said. About 1,000 daily commuters rode the Camden Line round trip from Union Station in Washington, D.C., to the station outside Oriole Park at Camden Yards in August, according to Steve Chan, chair of the MARC Riders Advisory Council. Nearly 2,000 daily riders took the Brunswick Line from Union Station to Martinsburg, West Virginia, in August.

Camden Line Train 852 remains canceled through Friday because of extreme freight train congestion between Dorsey and Camden Yards, according to MTA.

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“I am glad that the strike was resolved, that Camden Line and Brunswick Line service will continue. It is a benefit to the ridership to be able to use the MARC train system to get to and from work on a daily basis,” Chan said.

The Penn Line from Washington to Perryville in Cecil County would not have been affected by a strike because it runs on tracks owned by Amtrak, a passenger rail. The Penn Line has the highest ridership of MARC’s three lines, with 8,600 daily round-trip passengers in August, Chan said. Amtrak is also working to restore canceled trains and reaching out to impacted customers to accommodate on first available departures, spokesperson Beth K. Toll said Thursday.

“This tentative agreement will keep our trains moving, stations bustling, and employees proudly serving customers as we move them across this great country, stimulating local economies in more than 500 communities we serve,” said Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner.

CSX railroad workers had planned to strike Friday to seek a new deal aimed at improving working conditions. But on early Thursday morning, President Joe Biden said a tentative railway labor deal had been reached between railroads and unionized workers.

“These rail workers will get better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs: all hard-earned,” Biden said in a statement.

“The agreement is also a victory for railway companies who will be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come,” he said.

The tentative agreement will now go to union members for a vote after a cooling-off period of a few weeks.

Canceled Amtrak trains

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Although Amtrak lines and workers are not involved in the current labor negotiations, Amtrak canceled some long-distance passenger routes in anticipation of freight rail disruptions. Some routes going through Baltimore Penn Station, including Thursday departures on the Cardinal Line between New York and Chicago and the Piedmont Line between New York and Charlotte, North Carolina, were canceled. Now, Amtrak is trying to restore canceled trains.

Travel within the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor, which includes Baltimore, is mostly unaffected, a spokesperson said in a statement. Amtrak customers affected by disruptions can get refunds without cancellation fees or can change their reservation to another date through Oct. 31 without paying the difference in fares.

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Labor negotiations

A spokesperson for CSX referred questions about labor negotiations to the Association of American Railroads and the National Railway Labor Conference.

Earlier in the week, tentative agreements had been reached with most of the unions representing workers at the nation’s biggest railroads, including CSX. Two of the biggest unions representing conductors and engineers held out because they wanted railroads to go beyond recommendations from the Presidential Emergency Board and address concerns about strict attendance policies and working conditions.

Representatives for those unions, the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division union that represents conductors, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen that represents engineers, did not respond to requests for comment.

The five-year deal reached Thursday includes a 24% pay increase and $5,000 in bonuses. The railroads also agreed to ease their strict attendance policies to address union concerns about working conditions.

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Railroad workers will now be able to take unpaid days off for doctor’s appointments without being penalized. Previously, workers would lose points under the attendance systems at BNSF and Union Pacific railways, and they could be disciplined if they lost all their points.

Past railroad strikes in Baltimore

Railroad workers at Conrail and CSX went on strike in Baltimore in April 1991, during one of the last major rail strikes.

Although the striking unions were ready to staff the commuter trains, CSX told its engineers to stay home, citing passenger safety concerns. Commuter rail service was interrupted for about 8,000 riders on the Camden and Brunswick lines. CSX’s shutdown of the MARC trains was the only instance of a company closing a rail line during that strike, industry groups said then. Congress quickly passed legislation forcing the workers to return to work.

Historically, rail strikes are not new for Baltimore. In 1877, Maryland Gov. John Lee Carroll called in the National Guard to quell an uprising by striking railroad workers protesting wage cuts, a clash that set off a chain of work stoppages that became the first general strike in U.S. history.

The 1877 strike against the B&O Railroad and role of federal troops in ending it is memorialized by a historical marker near Camden Yards.

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The Associated Press, Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell, and Baltimore Sun reporters Lilly Price and Ngan Ho contributed to this article.


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