Business: The Week the Trains Stopped

How a little local dispute led to a ruckus on the rails in 42 states

Moving with the force of a runaway freight, a strike by railroad clerks swept the country last week and, before it ended, seriously snarled most of the nation's train traffic and threatened to derail much of the economy. If nothing else, the four-day ruckus showed just how dependent the U.S. still is on its rail system—and how quickly it can be disrupted by a single union.

The walkout by the 235,000-member Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks (B.R.A.C.) stemmed from...

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