WASHINGTON– President Joe Biden signs legislation on Friday to avert a railroad strike that he said could have plunged the US into a recession.
The White House said Biden will sign a measure passed by the Senate on Thursday and the House of Representatives on Wednesday, binding railroad companies and workers to a proposed agreement reached between the railroad companies and union leaders in September.
Members in four of the 12 unions involved opposed the proposed deal, posing the risk of a strike on December 9, which the government likely averted by signing the bill. A freight rail strike would also have a large potential impact on passenger service, since Amtrak and many commuter railroads rely on railroad-owned tracks.
The President has said a strike would have collapsed the US economy and lost around 750,000 jobs as the walkout would have disrupted supply chains for basic commodities, food and the chemicals needed to ensure clean drinking water.
Rising prices are already making many Americans fearful of an impending downturn, but the US job market has been resilient. The government reported on Friday that employers added 263,000 jobs in November as the unemployment rate stood at 3.7%.
Although Biden is a staunch union ally, he said the railroad order was necessary to prevent a strike.
The Biden administration helped broker deals between the railroads and union leaders in September, but four of the unions turned down the deals. Eight others have approved five-year contracts and all 12 are getting their wages back for their workers for the 24% pay rises backdated to 2020.
But the lack of a meaningful increase in paid sick leave and other quality of life issues were a major concern for many union members whose votes were needed to reach an agreement. The railroads say unions have agreed, after decades of negotiations, to forgo paid sick leave in favor of higher wages and strong short-term disability benefits. Union members say the railroads can afford the paid leave given their profit margins.
House Democrats narrowly passed a measure to add seven days of paid sick leave to the tentative agreement, but that amendment fell eight votes short of the 60 vote threshold required for Senate passage.
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https://abc7.com/railroad-workers-strike-rail-2022-biden-bill-us-economy/12518606/ 2022 rail strike averted: Biden signs bill into law, says strike could have sparked recession