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Congress votes to avoid rail strike amid dire warnings

Washington – Legislation to avoid economically devastating freight train strikes gets final approval in Congress on Thursday as lawmakers swiftly respond to President Joe Biden’s call for federal intervention in long-running labor disputes it was done.

The Senate passed a bill binding railroads and workers, and in September an agreement was reached between railroads and union leaders. The settlement proposal had been rejected by four of his 12 unions involved, raising the possibility of a strike starting on December 9.

The Senate vote was 80 to 15.It came the day after the House voted impose agreements; The bill is now going to Biden’s desk for his signature.

“Congress’s decisive action will ensure that we avoid imminent and devastating economic consequences for workers, families and communities across the country,” Biden said in a post-vote statement.

“Communities will maintain access to clean drinking water. Farmers and ranchers will continue to be able to bring food to market and feed livestock. People will continue to work,” Biden said.

Senate voted right after Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg He stressed to Democratic senators at a meeting in the Capitol that railroads would begin shutting down services well before a potential strike began. board.

Shortly before Thursday’s vote, Biden defended a deal that four of his unions had rejected, citing the wage increases it contained.

“I negotiated a deal that no one else could negotiate,” Biden said at a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. was there.”

Critics say the contract, which did not receive support from enough union members, did not give rail workers an adequate level of paid leave. Biden said he wanted to give “everyone” paid time off so they wouldn’t have to negotiate on their employment contracts, but Republican lawmakers have taken steps to request time off for health and family reasons. The president said Congress should impose a deal now to avoid a strike he said could cause 750,000 job losses and a recession.

Railroad companies say stopping rail service would cost the economy a devastating $2 billion a day. A freight rail strike can also have a major impact on passenger rail, with Amtrak and many commuter rail lines relying on tracks owned by freight rail.

The railway company and 12 trade unions have engaged in hard negotiations.Biden administration Help broker trading Negotiations were held between railway and union leaders in September, but four unions rejected the deal. Eight of his other companies have approved his five-year contract and are reimbursing employees for his 24% pay raise dating back to 2020.

With the strike looming, Mr. Biden called on Congress to enforce the interim deal agreed in September.Congress authority to do so It has also enacted laws in the past to delay or ban railroad and airline strikes. But most legislators want the parties to resolve their differences on their own.

The Senate held a series of three ballots. The first involved action by Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) to bring both parties back to the negotiating table. But union groups, like the Biden administration, opposed the extension. The proposal was rejected outright by 25 senators in favor and 70 against.

The AFL-CIO’s transportation and trade division leader said before the vote, “The extension will simply allow the railroad to maintain status quo operations while prolonging the suffering of workers.

The second vote the Senate took was to follow the path the House had narrowly taken the day before, adding seven days of paid sick leave to the interim agreement. But the bill fell short of the 60-vote threshold required by him by eight votes.

The final vote was a measure binding both parties to the September agreement. Like the House the day before, it passed with broad bipartisan support. Lawmakers expressed surprise at having to intervene in contract negotiations, but economic interests outweighed those concerns.

“A strike of that magnitude would have a painful impact on our economy. It’s an unacceptable scenario as inflation continues to weigh on West Virginia and Americans heading into the holiday season,” said DW.Va.

Democrats have traditionally criticized Biden’s move to ally with politically powerful labor unions and intervene in contract disputes to prevent strikes. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her Democratic colleagues that it was “very reluctant” for Congress to have to bypass the standard ratification process for union contracts.

However, she held an additional vote to add seven days of paid sick leave union members wanted. You can now avoid destructive strikes.

The request for paid sick leave was a major issue in the negotiations, along with other quality-of-life concerns. After decades of negotiations, unions agreed to give up paid sick leave in favor of higher wages and stronger short-term disability benefits, according to the railroad company.

The union argues that railroad companies with record profits can easily add paid sick leave. Several of the major railroad companies involved in negotiating these contracts reported profits of more than $1 billion in the third quarter.

A trade group from the American Railroad Association applauded the Senate vote for imposing a compromise that included the biggest price hike in more than 40 years, but CEO Ian Jeffries said many workers were dissatisfied with railroad working conditions. admitted to having a Jeffries said, “There is no doubt that more work needs to be done to further address work-life balance concerns for employees, but this agreement will improve railroads’ position among the best jobs in our country.” It’s clear that we’re maintaining it,” he said.

Union groups said they would not forget to vote.

“The Senate failed to pass seven days of paid sick leave for rail workers. Thank you to the 52 senators who voted yes and supported rail workers,” said the Department of Transportation and Trade union. tweeted. “The 43 elected leaders who abandoned the working class are a disgrace. We will never forget it.”


Associate Press staff writer Josh Boak contributed to this report. Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

https://www.ksat.com/news/politics/2022/12/01/biden-administration-presses-senators-to-avert-rail-strike/ Congress votes to avoid rail strike amid dire warnings

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