Last Updated on November 29, 2022
President Biden is calling on Congress to step in and prevent a potential railroad strike after more than 50% of workers in the sector’s largest unions rejected a tentative labor agreement. A majority of major unions voted to reject a deal brokered by the White House earlier this year and could start striking as early as December 5. The rail industry has estimated the cost of a strike at $2 billion per day.
“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,” the president said in a statement.
Workers have taken issue with long hours and the need to be on call practically round-the-clock as the industry deals with a critical shortage of workers. Seven smaller unions, as well as one of the nation’s largest, voted to ratify the deal, which includes a 24% increase in salary and one-time bonus payments of $5,000.
SMART-TD, which boasts 36,000 members, opted to reject the deal earlier this month, however. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way (BMWED) is scheduled to strike on December 5 with The Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), CNBC reported. These three unions alone account for more than 50% of the railroad industry’s workforce.
Dissenting unions have taken issue with the lack of paid sick days allotted under the plan.
Despite the high rate of rejection, Biden has called for Congress to take action in order to avoid the devastating effects of a strike.
“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,” Biden said, adding that he shares “workers’ concern about the inability to take leave to recover from illness or care for a sick family member.”
According to White House figures, upwards of 765,000 Americans could be out of work as the result of a railroad strike.
Congress can force workers back on the job under the federal Railway Labor Act of 1926 by passing legislation enshrining the terms of the provisional bargain.