The state legislative director for a union that represents transportation workers says the contract being imposed on the nation’s rail workers sets a troubling precedent.

Chris Smith of Tama is a local leader in the SMART-TD Union, which rejected the tentative agreement in November. “We’re not happy that congress intervened in a system that’s set up to work without their intervention,” Smith said. “We feel that the railroads did not have to fairly negotiate contracts because they had the leverage of congress forcing us back to work.”

At President Biden’s request, congress voted to avert a strike and force rail workers to accept the terms of a tentative agreement on wages and benefits. Members of seven different unions rallied at the Iowa Capitol yesterday to voice their objections. Ross Grooters is chairman of the Iowa State Legislative Board for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

“Our issues have not changed and we’re going to continue working to get the kind of workplace we need as workers,” Grooters says.

There seems to have been a collective “sigh of relief in the country” that a railroad strike was averted, according to Grooters, but he said the issues that are causing supply chain disruptions haven’t been resolved.

“We’re going to continue to have problems with the freight rail system, Grooter says, “and so we’re trying to keep that at the forefront of people’s minds.”

Grooters and others at the rally say trains aren’t properly staffed. Freight railroads have pared staff dramatically since 2015 to reduce costs and increase profits. According to the Associated Press, more than 22% of the jobs at Union Pacific, CFX and Norfolk Southern have been eliminated since 2017.