Amtrak management and railroad workers agreed Sunday to a cooling-off period of at least a week, averting a possible strike Wednesday that could have disrupted heavily traveled commuter operations up and down the East Coast.
Rodney Slater, the secretary of Transportation, announced that both sides had agreed to continue talks over outstanding wages and working conditions. The union, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, has been negotiating for three years, and would have been free to strike at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. The new deadline is one week later.
Beyond Amtrak passengers, the postponement of a possible strike was at least a temporary relief to travelers on commuter lines that use Amtrak-owned tracks and stations, including the Long Island Rail Road and Metro North in New York and the New Jersey Transit. Commuter lines in Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington also could be disrupted by a strike.
Slater requested the delay in a letter that was delivered late Saturday to Mac Fleming, the union president, and Thomas Downs, the president of Amtrak. Federal officials said both sides agreed to resume negotiations today.