Biden Calls on Congress to Prevent Rail Strike
President Joe Biden called on Congress to quickly intervene and prevent a rail strike in an effort to shield the U.S. economy. The House moved toward approving legislation on Wednesday to keep the rails running by imposing a labor agreement between workers and railroads.
The bill would force rail companies and workers to abide by the tentative agreement from earlier this year that was rejected by four of 12 unions due the exclusion of paid sick leave. The labor agreement reached in September issues an immediate 14% raise with back pay, a 24% wage increase by 2024 and cash bonuses of $1,000 per year, per a CNN broadcast. If an agreement is not reached and Congress does not pass a bill, rail workers could strike on Dec. 9.
"We're trying to address the issue here of sick time. It's very important," Michael Baldwin, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, told CNN on Tuesday. "This action prevents us from reaching the end of our process, takes away the strength and ability that we have to force bargaining or force the railroads to … do the right thing."
At a White House meeting on Tuesday, Biden argued that lawmakers had to act immediately. "The economy is at risk," he said. A rail shutdown could freeze almost 30% of U.S. cargo shipments by weight, stoke already surging inflation and cost the American economy as much as $2 billion per day, per Reuters.