President Joe Biden has urged Congress to immediately pass legislation to adopt a tentative agreement between railroad workers and operators – without any modifications or delay – to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown.
This agreement was approved by labor and management negotiators in September. On the day that it was announced, labor leaders, business leaders, and elected officials all hailed it as a fair resolution of the dispute between the hard-working men and women of the rail freight unions and the companies in that industry.
The deal provides an unprecedented 24 percent pay raise for rail workers. It also provides improved health care benefits and the ability of operating craft workers to take unscheduled leave for medical needs.
The majority of the unions in the industry have voted to approve the deal.
During the ratification votes, the Secretaries of Labor, Agriculture, and Transportation have been in regular touch with labor leaders and management. They believe that there is no path to resolve the dispute at the bargaining table and have recommended Congressional action.
Biden warned that a rail shutdown would devastate the U.S. economy. Without freight rail, many U.S. industries would shut down. According to the President’s economic advisors, as many as 765,000 Americans could be put out of work in the first two weeks alone. Communities could lose access to chemicals necessary to ensure clean drinking water. Farms and ranches across the country would find it difficult to feed their livestock.
Biden said that he shares workers’ concern about the inability to take leave to recover from illness or care for a sick family member. He promised that he will continue to press legislation and proposals to advance the cause of paid leave.
“Congress has the power to adopt the agreement and prevent a shutdown. It should set aside politics and partisan division and deliver for the American people. Congress should get this bill to my desk well in advance of December 9th so we can avoid disruption,” he said in a statement.
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