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House set to vote on bill to prevent rail workers strike

Washington – Congress is taking swift action to stop a U.S. rail workers strike. However, Congress reluctantly intervenes in a labor dispute to end what would be a devastating blow for the nation’s economy.

After President Biden requested Congress to intervene, the House was set to take action on Wednesday. The compromise labor agreement that President Biden brokered was rejected by four unions representing more then 100,000 workers at large freight railroad carriers. If an agreement is not reached by Dec. 9, the unions threaten to strike.

Both parties had their reservations. However, it was difficult for Democratic lawmakers to intervene. They have long sought to be aligned with politically powerful labor unions.

Vermont independent senator Bernie Sanders announced that he will object to the president’s proposal being fast-tracked until he can obtain a roll-call vote for an amendment which would guarantee seven sick days for rail workers. The measure was opposed by some of the more liberal members of the House, such as Reps. Jamaal and Cori Bowman from New York and Cori Bush of Missouri.

The bill was still expected to get a strong bipartisan vote. This support was evident when Mr. Biden , the Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, met on Tuesday at White House.

As he returned to Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that “we all agreed that it was important to avoid the rail shutdown as quickly as possible”.

Nancy Pelosi, House Speaker, promised her Democratic colleagues two votes. This was in response to the confusion she was hearing from members. The tentative labor agreement will be adopted as the first vote. The second vote will be on the measure to include seven days of paid sick time for railroad workers to the agreement.

Pelosi stated that it was with great reluctance we now have to move to bypass standard ratification for the Tentative Agreement. “But, we must act to stop a catastrophe strike that would affect the lives of almost every family: erasing hundreds and thousands of jobs, including union ones; keeping food off the shelves; and stopping small business from getting their products to market.”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer address the media after a meeting about avoiding a railroad worker strike with President Biden at the White House on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022. 

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images


The compromise agreement , which was supported by railroads and most of the unions, provides for 24% increases and $5,000 in retroactive bonuses up to 2020. There is also one paid leave day. These raises would be among the largest rail workers have received for more than 40 years. The workers would have to contribute a greater share of their medical insurance costs. However, their premiums would be limited at 15% of the total insurance plan cost. However, workers still have concerns about the demands of their schedules and lack of sick leave.

Both sides grumbled that they were being forced to enter the dispute. However, they said that they had no choice.

“The bottom line, we are now faced with this terrible situation in which we must choose between an imperfect deal that was already negotiated or an economic disaster,” stated Rep. Jim McGovern from Massachusetts.

Rep. StenyHoyer, a Maryland Democrat, stated that “This is about whether or not we shut down American railroads, which will have extremely negative effects on our economy.” 2 Democrat in Congress. “We should have bipartisan votes.”

Republicans criticized the Biden administration, and Democrats were asked to help in preventing an economic crisis. Many indicated that they were willing to do so.

“This is going to be hard for Democrats, in that they usually kowtows to unions,” stated Sen. Mike Braun from Indiana.

Rep. Tom Cole, Oklahoma said that “at this late hour it’s clear there is nothing we can do except to support the measure.”

In a letter addressed to congressional leaders earlier this week, U.S. Chamber of Commerce representatives and American Farm Bureau Federation stated that they are ready to intervene in the matter and that a suspension of rail service for any length would result in a $2 billion daily hit to the economy.

In the past, Congress intervened in labor dispute by passing legislation to prevent or delay strikes on railways and airlines.

On Tuesday railroad unions decried Mr. Biden’s request for Congress to intervene with their contract dispute. They claimed that it undermines their efforts to address worker quality-of-life issues.

Conductor Gabe Christenson is co-chairman for the Railroad Workers United coalition, which includes workers from all rail unions. He stated that Mr. Biden, and the Democrats, are siding with railroads over workers.

Christenson stated that the “most labor-friendly president in the history” has shown that he and his Democratic Party are not as friendly to labor as they claim to be.


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