Biden calls on Congress to head off potential rail strike

President Joe Biden on Monday requested Congress to intervene and block a railroad strike earlier than subsequent month’s deadline within the stalled contract talks, following strain by enterprise teams on the stalled negotiations.

“Let me be clear: a rail shutdown would devastate our economy,” Biden mentioned in an announcement. “Without freight rail, many U.S. industries would shut down.”

Congress has the facility to impose contract phrases on the employees, but it surely’s not clear what lawmakers would possibly embody in the event that they do. They might additionally power the negotiations to proceed into the brand new yr.

Each the unions and railroads have been lobbying Congress whereas contract talks proceed. 4 rail unions that signify greater than half of the 115,000 employees within the business have rejected the offers that Biden helped dealer earlier than the unique strike deadline in September and are again on the desk attempting to work out new agreements. Eight different unions have accepted their five-year offers with the railroads and are within the technique of getting again pay for his or her employees for the 24% raises which are retroactive to 2020.

Biden mentioned that as a “a proud pro-labor president” he was reluctant to override the views of people that voted in opposition to the settlement. “But in this case — where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families — I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal.”

Biden’s remarks got here after a coalition of greater than 400 enterprise teams despatched a letter to congressional leaders Monday urging them to step into the stalled talks due to fears concerning the devastating potential impression of a strike that would power many companies to shut down if they will’t get the rail deliveries they want. Commuter railroads and Amtrak would even be affected in a strike as a result of lots of them use tracks owned by the freight railroads.

The enterprise teams led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Nationwide Affiliation of Producers and Nationwide Retail Federation mentioned even a short-term strike would have an amazing impression and the financial ache would begin to be felt even earlier than the Dec. 9 strike deadline. They mentioned the railroads would cease hauling hazardous chemical compounds, fertilizers and perishable items up to every week beforehand to hold these merchandise from being stranded someplace alongside the tracks.

“A potential rail strike only adds to the headwinds facing the U.S. economy,” the companies wrote. “A rail stoppage would immediately lead to supply shortages and higher prices. The cessation of Amtrak and commuter rail services would disrupt up to 7 million travelers a day. Many businesses would see their sales disrupted right in the middle of the critical holiday shopping season.”

An identical group of companies despatched one other letter to Biden final month urging him to play a extra energetic position in resolving the contract dispute.

On Monday, the Affiliation of American Railroads commerce group praised Biden’s motion.

“No one benefits from a rail work stoppage — not our customers, not rail employees and not the American economy,” mentioned AAR President and CEO Ian Jefferies. “Now is the appropriate time for Congress to pass legislation to implement the agreements already ratified by eight of the twelve unions.”

Congressional leaders and the White Home have mentioned they’re monitoring the contract talks carefully however haven’t indicated once they would possibly act or what they’ll do. Home Majority Chief Steny Hoyer, D-Md., mentioned leaders are conscious of the scenario with the rail negotiations and can monitor the talks within the coming days.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., mentioned on “Fox News Sunday” that congressional intervention is a final resort however that lawmakers can have to be prepared to act.

“Congress will not let this strike happen. That’s for sure,” mentioned Fitzpatrick, who helps lead a bipartisan group of 58 lawmakers. “It would be devastating to our economy. So, we’ll get to a resolution one way or another.”

“It certainly could end up in Congress’ lap, which is why we are headed to D.C. this week to meet with lawmakers on the Hill from both parties,” mentioned Clark Ballew, a spokesman for the Brotherhood of Upkeep of Means Employes Division, which represents monitor upkeep employees. “We have instructed our members to contact their federal lawmakers in the House and Senate for several weeks now.”

The unions have requested the railroads to think about including paid sick time to what they already supplied to handle a few of employees’ quality of life concerns. However to date, the railroads, which embody Union Pacific, BNSF, Norfolk Southern, CSX and Kansas Metropolis Southern, have refused to think about that.

The railroads need any deal to carefully observe the recommendations a particular board of arbitrators that Biden appointed made this summer time that known as for the 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses however didn’t resolve employees’ considerations about demanding schedules that make it exhausting to take a day off and different working conditions.

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