Averting a national rail strike is now up to the U.S. Senate after the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation imposing a tentative agreement on the unions. PHOTO by Pexels.
The U.S. Congress has responded to President Joe Biden’s call to immediately pass legislation that averts a potentially crippling national rail shutdown.
House lawmakers have approved a legislative package that blocks strike action while at the same time keeping the door open for rail workers to secure paid sick leave, the main sticking point in the dispute. The legislative package must now get approval from the U.S. Senate before it can head back to President Biden for his final signature.
A rail shutdown in the U.S., which could start by Dec. 9 if the legislative package fails to pass the Senate, would likely impact cross-border traffic and Canadian manufacturers who are heavily reliant on cross-border shipments. It would also throw a North American supply chain already reeling from two years of supply chain disruptions into further disarray.
After President Biden called on lawmakers to act, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 290-137 to impose the tentative agreement eight of the twelve unions had approved back in September. The deal provided a historic 24% pay raise for all rail workers and improved health care benefits.
Lawmakers also passed a resolution to amend the tentative agreement to include seven days sick leave. That resolution was approved by a far narrower margin of 221-207.
“By sending it as a separate resolution, we are giving the Senate the ability to take it up in addition to the main bill,” Rep. Jim McGovern, head of the House Rules Committee, said Wednesday morning on the House floor. “If they don’t have the votes to pass it, they can still send the bill averting a rail strike straight to the president.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the media that he and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have agreed to “resolve the rail shutdown as quickly as possible.”
A rail strike 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.
“Let me be clear: A rail shutdown would devastate our economy,” Biden warned earlier this week.
More than 400 trade groups have warned of devastating economic impacts should a strike be carried out.