A tentative railway labor agreement announced Thursday, according to President Biden, is a “big win for America.”
The agreement reached between the union and railroad executives averts a strike on Friday, which would have disrupted passenger and freight rail traffic across the country. However, workers must still decide whether the changes meet their needs.
“They’re still standing,” President Biden said during a meeting with key negotiators in the Oval Office on Thursday. “They should be in bed for 20 hours straight.” I’d like to express my gratitude to both business and labor.”
President Biden later said in the Rose Garden that the agreement “is a great deal for both sides.” It includes pay raises and bonuses for 115,000 unionized railroad employees, as well as the ability to take unpaid sick days without penalty.
“These benefits were earned and deserve,” the president said.
President Biden stated that the agreement will also benefit railway companies by improving recruitment and retention efforts.
“They’re the real backbone of the economy,” he says.
Economists predicted that a strike could halt food and fuel shipments, costing up to $2 billion per day in lost productivity, and Congress was prepared to act.
“If the trains stop running, our economy grinds to a halt,” said Republican Senator Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
On Wednesday, a group of Republicans led by Wicker attempted to pass a joint resolution requiring both parties to accept recommendations from a presidential emergency board, which some unions opposed. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) blocked the GOP effort due to sick leave and scheduling issues.
“These inequitable and dangerous working conditions would be allowed to continue,” Sanders stated.
Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said Thursday that the resolution is still on the table because workers must vote on whether to approve the agreement.
“If they don’t,” Grassley said, “Congress must step in.”
However, the idea was rejected by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who led the negotiations.
“That’s unnecessary,” Walsh said. “We reached an agreement.”
Union members intend to vote in a few weeks.