Joe Biden called on Congress to intervene and block a railroad strike before December’s deadline in the stalled contract talks, saying a strike would “devastate our economy.”
The Guardian says Biden’s move comes as business groups have warned that the looming strike would hit just before the holiday season and worsen the U.S.’s inflation problems.
“Let me be clear: a rail shutdown would devastate our economy,” Biden said in a statement. “Without freight rail, many U.S. industries would shut down.”
The strike looms after long-running negotiations reached an impasse and both sides agreed to a cooling-off period that ends December 9.
Congress has the power to impose contract terms on the workers, but it’s not clear what lawmakers might include if they do. They could also force the negotiations to continue into the new year.
Both the unions and railroads have been lobbying Congress while contract talks continue. Four rail unions that represent more than half of the 115,000 workers in the industry have rejected the deals that Biden helped broker before the original strike deadline in September and are back at the table trying to work out new agreements. Eight other unions have approved their five-year deals with the railroads and are in the process of getting back pay for their workers for the 24% raises that are retroactive to 2020.
Last month the Biden administration said he was reluctant to override the views of people who voted against the agreement. “But in this case – where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families – I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal.”
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