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New Mexico’s longest Amtrak route, the Southwest Chief, will not run for the foreseeable future as the railroad company grapples with a labor dispute, an Amtrak spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.
The Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited lines, which also run through the state, were suspended as well. Amtrak stops in seven cities throughout the state: Albuquerque, Deming, Gallup, Lamy, Las Vegas, Lordsburg and Raton.
The cancellations were announced ahead of a Friday strike deadline as negotiations continue among the nation’s largest freight railroads and multiple unions.
The railroads began negotiating with a dozen different unions representing about 115,000 workers in late 2019, but talks were slowed by the pandemic, the AP reported. Government mediators tried to broker agreements to avoid the specter of a nationwide rail strike, but that didn’t work. President Joe Biden then appointed a presidential emergency board, which held hearings and issued recommendations last month including 24% pay raises and thousands of dollars in bonuses.
Many of the unions have reached tentative agreements with the railroads, but two large unions representing engineers and train conductors have held out for better terms on working conditions. Workers represented by the machinists’ union rejected a deal negotiated by their leaders, although that union agreed to delay any strike until Sept. 29. Two other unions – the Transportation Communications Union and the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen – voted to ratify their contracts Wednesday.
Although Amtrak’s employees aren’t involved in the negotiations, many of the company’s trains use freight railroad tracks. Amtrak has suspended service for over a dozen long-distance train routes over the past several days.
“Amtrak is closely monitoring ongoing freight rail management – labor contract negotiations,” a statement from Amtrak reads. “… Because the parties have not yet reached a resolution, Amtrak has begun to make initial service adjustments in response to a possible freight railroad service interruption that could occur later this week.”
Passengers whose trains are canceled will be notified at least a day ahead of time and are eligible for refunds.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.