A rail shutdown would devastate the U.S. economy President Joe Biden warns in asking Congress to act before the Dec. 9 deadline. PHOTO by Pexels.
U.S. President Joe Biden is calling on Congress to immediately pass legislation to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown.
The rail shutdown in the U.S. could start by Dec. 9 and would likely impact cross-border traffic and Canadian manufacturers who are heavily reliant on cross-border shipments.
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,” President Biden said. “The deal provides a historic 24% pay raise for rail workers. It provides improved health care benefits. And it provides the ability of operating craft workers to take unscheduled leave for medical needs.”
The deal was approved by labor and management negotiators back in September and eight of the twelve unions involved have voted to approve the deal. However, with four unions still refusing to ratify the deal, the spectre of a rail strike that could cripple up to 30% of the country’s cargo shipments by weight and cost the U.S. economy up to $2 billion per day is looming larger every day we get closer to the Dec. 9 deadline.
“Let me be clear: A rail shutdown would devastate our economy,” Biden warned.
Biden said the Secretaries of Labor, Agriculture, and Transportation have been in regular touch with labor leaders and management and believe that there is no path to resolve the dispute at the bargaining table, recommending Congressional action.
“As a proud pro-labor President, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement,” Biden said. “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.”
There’s no limitation on how Congress could intervene, according to a report in the Freightwaves newsletter, but there are three options Congress could pursue, according to Seth Harris, senior fellow at Northeastern University’s Burns Center for Social Change. Harris has also served as Biden’s top labor adviser, and he was the acting secretary of labor and deputy secretary of labor for former President Barack Obama.
“The three likeliest options are, one, they pass a bill imposing a longer cooling-off period, two, they pass a bill ending the strike — if there is a strike — and, three, they pass a bill that ends the strike and imposes terms on the parties, basically legislating a collective bargaining agreement for the parties,” Harris told FreightWaves.