The looming threat of a national railway strike might soon require a congressional intervention, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
On Monday, Hoyer told Bloomberg Television that Congress would act to avert the national railway strike. However, the congressional clock would already be ticking on the first phase of railway strike, which reportedly involves Amtrak halting three long-distance-route trains, beginning Tuesday.
"There is a role for Congress if in fact they fail to reach an agreement," Hoyer said on Bloomberg's "Balance of Power" show. "We can pass legislation, if needed."
With the midterm elections less than two months away (Nov. 8), the Democrat-controlled House and Senate chambers likely cannot afford the negative publicity that comes with a nationwide railway strike.
The White House has already been inundated with logistical and inflationary concerns over the last 18 months — including pricing problems with American consumer staples, such as gasoline, diapers, baby formula, eggs, milk, and proteins at the grocery store.
As such, the Biden administration has already pledged its support in avoiding the national railway strike, which, according to industry estimates, could be a $2 billion per day drain on the U.S. economy.
"A shutdown of our freight rail system is an unacceptable outcome for our economy and the American people," a White House official informed Axios."The Administration has been actively engaged, pushing for a resolution. All parties need to stay at the table, resolve outstanding issues and come to an agreement."
Last week, the Association for American Railroads characterized the negotiations as "active and ongoing."
According to the Associated Press, last week, the heads of the unions which represent engineers and conductors — the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers: Transportation Division union, and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen union — issued a joint statement, slamming Congress' prospects for getting involved with union negotiations.
The railroads have reportedly begun preparations for the strike by halting shipments of hazardous materials and other chemicals Monday — thus ensuring that carloads of incendiary products won't be stranded along the tracks, if the trains stop moving.
"The railroads are using shippers, consumers, and the supply chain of our nation as pawns in an effort to get our unions to cave into their contract demands knowing that our members would never accept them. Our unions will not cave into these scare tactics, and Congress must not cave into what can only be described as corporate terrorism," said Jeremy Ferguson with SMART-TD and Dennis Pierce with the BLET union.
The two unions referenced above have been demanding that CSX, Union Pacific, BNSF, Norfolk Southern, Kansas City Southern, and other railroads "go beyond" the proposed deal recommended by a group of Biden-appointed arbitrators, according to the AP.
The unions are calling to "address concerns about strict attendance policies that they say make it hard to take any time off and increasing workloads after the railroads cut nearly one-third of their workforces in recent years," the AP added.
Also, the railroad trade group asserts that approximately 467,000 additional trucks per day would be needed to handle all the cargo trains haul, and there is already a shortage of truck drivers.
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