Three of the 12 unions negotiating with the largest freight railroads in the U.S. have reached a tentative agreement that will give pay raises of 24%.

This is in line with what a special presidential panel of arbitrators suggested earlier this month to break the deadlock and avoid a strike. 

More than 15,000 people from the International Association of Machinists, the Transportation Communications Union, and the Brotherhood of Railway

Carmens are covered by the tentative five-year deal that was announced on Monday. 

But the two biggest rail unions that represent engineers and conductors said over the weekend that they still

haven't been able to reach a deal that their members would accept. 

Federal law says that the railroads can't go on strike until they reach an agreement with all of their unions. They have until the middle of September to do

this. If it gets to that point, though, Congress is expected to step in to keep the trains moving because a rail strike could be very bad for the economy.

Lawmakers could make both sides agree to terms or send the case to arbitration. 

All of the railroad unions work for about 115,000 workers. Even though they have been negotiating as a coalition

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