U.S. Train Workers Won’t Go on Strike: Unions for thousands of railroad employees were this week coerced into accepting a contract that many of them consider insufficient by Congress and the Biden administration, using terms of a 96-year-old labor law.
No Strike by American Train Employees Is Expected
On Friday, President Joe Biden signed legislation to prevent a nationwide train strike in the United States, which would have been catastrophic for the economy of the United States.
On Thursday, the United States Senate held a vote to enforce a preliminary contract deal that was struck in September on a dozen unions representing 115,000 workers. The workers might have gone on strike on December 9, but the vote passed with an overwhelming majority of 80 to 15. But the Senate did not pass a bill that would have made it mandatory for railroad employers to offer paid sick days to their employees.
“It was difficult for me, but it was the right thing to do at the moment — to save employment, to protect millions of working families from injury and disruption, and to keep supply chains stable during the holidays,” said Vice President Joe Biden, adding that the pact avoided “an economic disaster.”
The agreement was approved by eight of the twelve unions. However, several leaders in the labor movement have chastised Vice President Joe Biden, who describes himself as a friend of the labor movement, for pushing Congress to enforce a contract that employees in four different unions have rejected because it does not provide for paid sick leave.
Biden was quoted as saying, in reference to the campaign for paid sick leave, “That struggle isn’t finished.” In recent years, railroads have reduced labor and other expenses in order to boost earnings, and they have vehemently resisted the implementation of paid sick leave since it would compel them to recruit additional workers.
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The President of the Teamsters Union, Sean O’Brien, was quite critical of the decision that the Senate took on sick leave. “Profits for rail carriers have reached all-time highs. Rail workers receive 0 paid sick days. Is this acceptable? A human being has the inherent entitlement to paid sick leave. This system is not functioning properly “O’Brien expressed his thoughts on Twitter.
This country needs its rail workers, without them our economy would falter. Thank you @POTUS and Congress for averting a nationwide rail strike and for taking care of our rail companies and their workers.https://t.co/4IcDBkDPF7
— Mayor Erin Mendenhall (@slcmayor) December 3, 2022
In order to prevent strikes affecting transportation, Congress exercised its broad powers, which is an authority it does not possess in the case of other labor conflicts. The agreement that will go into effect after Biden signs it provides for a compounded salary raise of 24% over the course of the next five years as well as five-yearly lump-sum payouts of $1,000.
Ian Jefferies, the chief executive officer of the American Association of Railroads, stated that “none of the parties achieved everything they advocated for,” but he added that “without a doubt, there is more that can be done to further address the concerns of our employees regarding their work-life balance.”
If the legislation hadn’t been passed, rail workers could have gone on strike the following week, but the effects would have been felt as early as this weekend when railroads would have stopped accepting shipments of hazardous materials and commuter railroads would have started canceling passenger service.