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Congress Averts Railway Strike

National

Activists in support of unionized rail workers protest outside the Capitol in Washington | Image by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

A looming railroad strike was averted on Friday after Congress passed a bill requiring unionized railway workers to sign on to a tentative deal struck with railroad operators back in September.

President Joe Biden signed the bill into law, which he claimed ended “a difficult rail dispute and helps our nation avoid what, without a doubt, would have been an economic catastrophe at a very bad time in the calendar.”

Congress moved to act earlier in the week, concerned over the economic repercussions a work stoppage could have during the holiday season.

“I wish that the president were more hands-on with this issue and able to handle it without coming to Congress,” said Sen. Rob Portman, speaking with The New York Times on Tuesday before the House and Senate voted on the bill. “But I don’t think we should be irresponsible and leave the possibility out there of a major strike.”

The House of Representatives passed two bills on Wednesday. One required the railway workers to accept the September deal, which provides pay raises and one additional personal day. The other bill, which failed to pass in the Senate, would have provided an additional seven days of paid sick leave, CNBC reported.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas explained his vote against sick leave, stating, “There would be no incentive for people to try to reach some negotiated outcome if they can come running to the Congress and Congress would redo it.”

Most union railway workers had not been willing to accept the September agreement. They had pledged to go on strike on December 9 if negotiations did not move forward, threatening a critical, labor-starved logistics industry just weeks before Christmas. With the law enacted, any striking workers can be fired from their jobs for breaking the agreement.

The federal government is empowered to intervene in labor negotiations when disputes “threaten substantially to interrupt interstate commerce to a degree such as to deprive any section of the country of essential transportation service,” per the Railway Act of 1926.

“Our nation’s rail system is literally the backbone of our supply chain … Without freight rail, many of the U.S. industries would literally shut down,” said Biden.

As previously reported in The Dallas Express, several industries had begun making arrangements to ship their goods using trucks instead of by rail in anticipation of a strike, following more than a year of supply-chain bottlenecks and labor shortages that repeatedly disrupted the transportation of goods.

Biden thanked Congress on Friday for acting quickly, “It was the right thing to do at the moment to save jobs, to protect millions of working families from harm and disruption, and to keep supply chains stable around the holidays, and to continue the progress we’ve made and we’re — continue to see on the economy.”

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Pap
Pap
1 month ago

They have to be careful because the chaos that the strike would have caused would probably have opened up a lot of eyes.

I remember Reagan handling the air traffic controllers. They got a hell of a surprise. Fired them all with a lifetime ban of ever working in that position again.

Negotiate all you want but to cause terror and shortages for the entire country is WRONG. From what I’ve read, railroad workers have always gotten exceptional retirement benefits. But nothing is ever enough.

Michael C
Michael C
1 month ago

The problem with our “pro-union” President and Congress inserting themselves into railroad negotiations is that they have no idea what railroad workers go through on a daily basis. Even the majority of people writing articles about the contract negotiations have no idea what they are talking about. Do some research or actually talk to some railroad workers and find out the truth. While people think that a 22% raise, not 24% as reported, is exceptional, what people don’t understand is railroaders have no life. They are on call 7 days a week and cannot call off sick without being punished. They are away from their families constantly and don’t even know what a weekend or holiday is while a majority of the United States enjoys their time off with family. There is no holiday pay, no night differential pay, no sick day pay unless multiple days are taken off at once then the pay is only 80%. The one thing that is supposed to protect them is the union, yet they are mandated by the government to accept a garbage contract that provides no benefits. An extra personal day is great in theory, too bad they are denied on a regular basis or approved a couple hours before the person has to be at work. People need to wake up and get facts instead of spewing opinions that are ignorant and irrelevant.

Pap
Pap
Reply to  Michael C
1 month ago

Those wealthy dems running the show right now have no idea what ANY layman worker goes through, nor do they care. They spend money like water but are going to make danged sure you pay tax on every nickel, while they live like kings and queens, at our expense.

But to even CONSIDER doing something that would devastate the entire country, that is already suffering, is beyond wrong. And at Christmas? Give me a break. It’s unconscionable.

Michael C
Michael C
Reply to  Pap
1 month ago

How else do issues get resolved if it doesn’t put a strain on the economy? Ignorance is bliss and only people that have the ability to be off for Christmas would think like that. Teachers, pilots and many others strike to get what they deserve but because when it’s the railroad and Christmas it’s a travesty and shouldn’t be allowed. Give me a break and open yours eyes. Blame whatever political party you want because they are all the same, worthless unless they get what they want. Railroad workers are being mistreated and have a union for a reason but Congress steps in to prevent them from exercising their union rights. Again I’m so happy some people are privileged to have holidays off with their families but don’t be naive, most railroad workers don’t have that option and I’m sure little Jonny missing out of a few toys is the least of their worries.