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'We will be paying more': Economist warns looming railroad strike could have far-reaching impact

desert railroad
Posted at 9:42 PM, Sep 14, 2022

DENVER — The clock is winding down for unions and railroad companies to reach an agreement by the end of the week. Right now, train engineers and conductors are accusing railroad companies of penalizing them for taking time off for medical reasons.

If an agreement isn't reached, come Friday at 12:01 a.m. EST, trains could come to a halt across the nation, and an estimated 60,000 people could walk off the job in solidarity with other workers.

"This is not very good news," said Kishore Kulkarni, an MSU Denver economics professor.

Kulkarni said the stoppage of freight trains could have some of the most far-reaching impacts, disrupting the shipping of retail products like produce and meat. The shipment of manufacturing components could also be impacted.

Railroad companies have already announced plans to stop shipment of refrigerated items ahead of the strike deadline.

Kulkarni said any new supply chain disruptions would undoubtedly increase inflation on consumers who've already been paying record-high prices for essentials.

"Within November and December, all of us will start spending more," he said. "Prices are expected to go up, and now with this railroad strike, the prices are going to go up again."

According to a September report by the Association of American Railroads, a trade group who lobbies on behalf of rail companies, a potential strike could cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion a day.

In terms of commuter lines, Amtrak has preemptively suspended long-distance routes, despite not being involved in the ongoing negotiations. Routes impacted would include the California Zephyr, which travels trough Denver's Union Station, and the Southwest Chief, which travels through the southeast corner of Colorado.

As the potential strike looms, Kulkarni said the only way to prepare is for Americans to stretch their budgets even more.

"I have to find ways to lower my consumption. I will cut down on my travel, my vacations, my presents in the holiday season, too," he said. "Because it does look like we will be paying more than we usually do for all our presents at Christmas."