Biden asks Congress for help with imminent rail worker strike

President Joe Biden is pleading with Congress for help in order to prevent an impending railroad worker strike, the Daily Caller reports

Biden did so in a statement that he released on Monday, Nov. 29.

Background

Labor disputes between railroad workers and railroad employers are nothing new. This particular dispute has already been going on for many years, with negotiations starting over two years ago.

The White House has been mediating these discussions because of the importance of freight railroads to American commerce.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Freight railroads move about 40% of U.S. long-distance cargo and deliver freight such as feedstock, coal, lumber, construction material and automotive parts. Even a short strike could lead to diversions and cascade to delays and congestion, pushing back recovery in some supply chains.

Deal?

The sides have reached a five-year agreement, brokered by the White House, that provides the workers with a 24% increase in their 2020 wages through 2024. In addition to this, the agreement provides workers with an additional paid day off.

Of the 12 major rail unions involved in these negotiations, eight have ratified this agreement. But, the remaining four have rejected it, not happy with their work schedules and the companies’ paid sick leave policies.

For the time being, both sides have agreed to a cooling-off period that will last until Dec. 9.

But, the problem is that neither side appears willing to budge, and so, a strike appears to be a real possibility.

“I am calling on Congress”

It is with this possible strike in mind – and the devastating impact that it would have on American commerce – that Biden, on Monday, pleaded with Congress for help.

“I am calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators – without any modifications or delay – to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown,” Biden said.

Biden, here, is essentially asking Congress to impose the agreement on the remaining four railroad unions that had rejected it. The move is not without precedent. George H.W. Bush, for example, similarly ended a rail strike through Congressional legislation in 1991.

Biden, after emphasizing the effect that a strike would have on the U.S. economy, claimed:

As a proud pro-labor President, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement. 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.

The House is expected to vote on the legislation this week. It is unclear what Congress will do as there are many lawmakers, on both sides of the aisle, who will be reluctant to get involved in the dispute.