(CNN) – With a crippling freight rail strike looming in two weeks, leaders of four railroad unions and management of the major US freight railroads are due back at the negotiating table this afternoon.It will be the first joint negotiating session for the four unions, whose rank-and-file members rejected the five-year labor agreements similar to deals accepted by the eight other rail unions in recent months.The latest no vote came from the largest union, the transportation division of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail Transportation union, or SMART-TD, which represents 28,000 conductors, brakemen, and other workers.
About 51 percent of those members voted against the deal reached in a 20-hour bargaining session in September, just hours before a previous strike deadline.“A strike could be averted.
The ball is back in the carriers’ hands at this point,” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson told CNN Tuesday. "It will be a difficult process.
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