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Tags: railroad | strike | congress | unions | work stoppage

Congress Can Head Off National Rail Strike, but Remains Divided on How to Act

US capitol building
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

By    |   Wednesday, 14 September 2022 07:55 PM EDT

A national railroad strike is drawing perilously close, with a planned Friday walkout seeming to have all the momentum of a speeding locomotive. But Congress on Wednesday remained as divided on how to stop it as the labor unions and rail companies themselves.

Even though President Joe Biden is stressing the importance of avoiding a stoppage, which would exacerbate supply chain woes, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., blocked a GOP resolution to force the labor unions and railroad companies to come to an agreement.

The unions want the railroads to provide unpaid leave time that workers could use to attend medical appointments or deal with other personal business without being penalized. Sanders is standing staunchly behind the workers; He said he would not force workers to embrace a deal that didn't afford them the pay, reliable schedules, sick days, and safe working conditions to which they're entitled.

Republicans want to keep the trains rolling.

If the two sides cannot agree by Friday, a strike will come, stalling the movement of goods and travelers via U.S. railroads at great cost to an already-wobbly economy trying to pull itself out of an inflationary cycle.

Congress could step in to block a strike and impose terms on the railroads and unions, but as of now Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on a solution.

A number of business groups have written letters to lawmakers over the past week urging them to be prepared to step in because of their concerns that a rail strike would be what the Business Roundtable called an "economic catastrophe."

With the midterm elections just weeks away, politics will play a role if Congress has to settle this dispute. Democrats are wary of finding themselves at odds with allies and donors from labor unions.

At the same time, Republicans see an opportunity to put pressure on Biden and his party if the railroads teeter toward a strike.

The many businesses that rely on railroads to deliver their raw materials and finished products say a rail strike would cause significant problems particularly for oil refineries, chemical businesses, automakers, retailers, and agricultural groups. The Association of American Railroads trade group estimated that a strike would cost the economy more than $2 billion a day.

Businesses would likely try to turn to trucks and other modes of shipping if the railroads do shut down, but there is not enough trucking capacity to take up all the slack. The railroad trade group estimated 467,000 more trucks a day would be required to deliver everything railroads handle now.

A freight rail strike would also disrupt passenger traffic because Amtrak and many commuter railroads operate on tracks owned by the freight railroads. Amtrak has already canceled a number of its long-distance trains this week, and it said the rest of its long-distance trains would stop Thursday ahead of the strike deadline.

The White House has publicly said it cannot accept a strike, but Biden has reportedly not told Congress how it should proceed, according to The Hill.

"We have made crystal clear to the interested parties the harm that American families and businesses and farmers and communities would experience if they were not to reach a resolution," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said at Tuesday's daily press briefing.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

A national railroad strike is drawing perilously close, with a planned Friday walkout seeming to have all the momentum of a speeding locomotive.
railroad, strike, congress, unions, work stoppage
Wednesday, 14 September 2022 07:55 PM
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