Judge says BNSF unions can't strike over new attendance rule

BNSF railroad's two biggest unions that represent 17,000 workers won't be able to go on strike over a new attendance policy they say would penalize employees for missing work for any reason.

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a strike would likely violate federal law because under their contracts railroad unions aren't allowed to strike over minor disputes. Instead, those must be settled through arbitration or negotiation.

Judge Mark Pittman said a strike would hurt BNSF and could cause significant damage to the economy because of the role the railroad plays in delivering all kinds of goods.

“The record further establishes that a strike would exacerbate our current supply-chain crisis — harming the public at large, not just BNSF,” Pittman wrote.

The Fort Worth, Texas-based railroad earlier this month after the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation unions said they were considering going on strike to protest the new policy that is set to go into effect on Feb. 1.