Rail transportation has been an important, powerful part of the CAW's membership since a series of mergers with independent railway unions (including the CBRT&GW ) in the 1990s. Today there are over 9,000 CAW members working on the railways, organized into 20 bargaining units. That makes for an average bargaining unit size of 465 members.

The bulk of CAW railway members are found at CN Rail, the VIA Rail passenger service and Canadian Pacific. Hundreds of members also work at Ontario Northland Railway.

The railway industry as a whole is heavily unionized, with around 80 percent of all workers belonging to a union. The federal government has shown its willingness to suppress the free bargaining rights of railway workers - typically legislating them back to work quickly in the event of work stoppage. Facilitating better cooperation between railway unions is another priority for winning good future contracts.

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