President Joe Biden has signed into law legislation that forces four balking railway unions to accept a tentative agreement accepted by the majority of unions involved in the contract talks, averting a catastrophic railway strike. PHOTO by Pexels.
The threat of a crippling rail strike in the U.S. has been averted. Both the U.S. Senate and Congress have quickly voted in favor of legislation imposing a tentative agreement on four balking rail worker unions and President Joe Biden has signed the bill into law.
The agreement, brokered by the Biden administration back in September, was accepted by the other eight railway unions involved in the contract talks. The four dissenting unions, however, represented more than half of the unionized rail employees.
President Biden’s move to force the unions to accept the tentative agreement removes the feared possibility of a legal strike, which would have had a significant impact on manufacturing and other segments of the North American economy. Disgruntled rail workers could still potentially stage a “wildcat” walkout but their employers now can legally replace them or secure an injunction for a federal court ordering them back to work.
Biden had made an urgent call to Congress and the Senate to draft legislation to avert a crippling national rail shutdown, which could have started Dec. 9. “Let me be clear: A rail shutdown would devastate our economy,” Biden had warned.
Such a shutdown would likely have impacted cross-border traffic and Canadian manufacturers who are heavily reliant on cross-border shipments. It would also have thrown a North American supply chain already reeling from two years of supply chain disruptions into further disarray.
A rail strike could have crippled up to 30% of the country’s cargo shipments by weight and cost the U.S. economy up to $2 billion per day, it was estimated.
More than 400 trade groups had warned of devastating economic impacts should a strike be carried out.
The Senate’s move to prevent a railway shutdown followed the approval by the U.S. Congress of a legislative package that also blocked strike action. The Senate bill did not include paid sick leave, however, a key demand from the four unions, and part of the U.S. Congress package.