The American Association of Railroads (AAR) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) responded positively to the announcement November 30 that the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to codify the Tentative Agreement reached by rail carriers and unions earlier in 2022.
“Action by the House today to ensure the U.S. rail system remains up and running is a welcome sigh of relief to the retail industry and all of those that rely on this key component of our nation’s supply chain,” said RILA Director of Government Affairs, Sarah Gilmore, in a statement issued the same day. “Any disruption and the uncertainty that surrounds a potential strike of this magnitude is one our economy can ill-afford.”
A November 30 statement from AAR called on the Senate to implement the tentative agreements swiftly and “reject the Senator Sanders-led push to undermine bargaining and artificially add to contracts beyond the scope of the Biden-endorsed agreements.”
The House passed two separate bills November 30 — one to codify the tentative contract agreement over the objections of the four out of 12 unions that voted against it, and a second to add seven paid sick days to the contract.
Both bills still need to be passed by the Senate, and that outcome is not a sure thing. Politico reported November 30 that Republican positions on the legislation were widely divergent. If Democrats call a vote, it will require 10 GOP yes votes, joined by every Democrat. Senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said they will oppose the contract agreement but are not sure if they will support more paid leave for rail workers. Rubio also floated an amendment to buy more time for negotiations.
AAR CEO Ian Jefferies pushed back particularly on the bill that seeks to force the issue of added sick leave. “Unless Congress wants to become the de facto endgame for future negotiations, any effort to put its thumb on the bargaining scale to artificially advantage either party or otherwise obstruct a swift resolution would be wholly irresponsible and risk a timely outcome to avoid significant economic harm,” Jeffries said.
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