Biden urges Congress to block rail strike that could ‘devastate economy’

President Joe Biden is urging Congress to act “immediately” to prevent a nationwide rail strike next month that could “devastate our economy” in the weeks before Christmas. File photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License photo

November 29. President Joe Biden is calling on Congress to “immediately” pass legislation to avert a nationwide rail strike next month that could “destroy our economy” over the holidays.

Biden urged lawmakers on Monday to formally adopt a tentative deal approved by trucking and railroad labor leaders in September to avoid a Dec. 9 strike deadline.

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“I urge Congress to immediately pass legislation to end the tentative agreement between railroad workers and operators without any change or delay — to avoid a potentially devastating shutdown of the nation’s railroads,” Biden said Monday.

“Closing the railroad will destroy our economy,” Biden said. “Without freight rail, many US industries would be out of business. My economic advisers report that in the first two weeks alone, as many as 765,000 Americans — union workers themselves — could lose their jobs.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the chamber would vote in the next few days on a tentative deal that has divided railroad unions.

“This week, the House will consider legislation to pass the tentative agreement reached in September after months of intense negotiations,” Pelosi said in a statement.

If the House passes legislation to pass the deal, Senate action could come later this week or next, according to Senate sources.

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Biden celebrated a deal in September that gave union members an average 24 percent pay raise over five years, better working conditions and a cap on health benefits. But some unions rejected the deal because it did not include paid sick leave, which was a major sticking point in negotiations.

“This agreement was approved by labor and management negotiators in September,” Biden said.

“On the day it was announced, labor leaders, business leaders and elected officials all hailed it as a fair settlement of the dispute between the working men and women of the railroad freight unions and the companies in the industry,” he said. said “Since then, the majority of unions have voted to approve the agreement.”

The members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Union and the trainers recently, as well as the instructors of the International Union of Locomotive Union, approved locomotives, roads and transport. But train and engine service members at SMART-TD rejected the deal and sent it for negotiation with the National Committee of the Shippers’ Conference, which represents the railroad’s management.

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In total, eight rail unions have approved the deal, but all 12 unions need to ratify it for ratification. A nationwide strike by any trucking union would prevent others from crossing the picket line and would cost the US economy $2 billion a day.

If Congress acts this week, lawmakers could force both sides to honor the deal or extend the “cooling off” period.

“I don’t want to deny the approval process and the views of those who voted against the deal,” Biden said. “But in this case, where the economic impact of the shutdown will hurt millions of other workers and families — I believe Congress should use its authority to pass this deal.”

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