US Congress Passes Legislation To Avoid Major Rail Freight Strike

US Congress passes legislation to avert major strike rail freight


The US Congress passed legislation on Thursday to avert a potentially catastrophic rail freight strike for the US economy. 

The text, passed in the afternoon in the Senate, imposes a branch agreement on the profession, despite the fact that it has not been approved by all the unions.

Faced with the prospect of a strike starting on December 9, US President Joe Biden, a big supporter of rail transport, had demanded that Congress pass legislation into force, which he is empowered to do under a law of 1926. The branch agreement had already been adopted on Wednesday in the House of Representatives.

The Democratic leader, who never misses an opportunity to affirm, in general, his support for the unions, judged the current situation too perilous: a freight strike would have reduced American economic activity by two billion dollars a day, according to an estimate by the American Railroad Association.

Paralysis of the rail

Because in the United States, approximately 28% of the goods transported are by rail.

A strike would also have had a significant impact on passenger transport, since most passenger trains use tracks belonging to freight companies.

The prospect of a paralysis of American rail also presented a risk major policy move for President Joe Biden, as inflation remains high and the U.S. economy is already showing signs of slowing.

But by forcing the adoption of the collective agreement and ignoring social dialogue, the head of state exposed himself to criticism from trade unions and the left wing of his majority.

“ There is no clearer example of corporate greed than what we see in the railroad industry today,” lamented Progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Joe Biden defended himself from all criticism during a press conference on Thursday, assuring that he had managed “to negotiate a contract that no one else could have negotiated”.

The text provides a salary increase of 24% over the five-year period from 2020 to 2024 (with retroactive effect).

Sick leave

This strike threat originated in a complex negotiation process, involving 12 unions and their employers, and in which Joe Biden had put all his political weight.

Among the issues that crystallized the dissatisfaction of many employees of the sector: sick leave, some companies not granting any in the state.

In an attempt to resolve this dispute, the Democrats had presented a complementary bill providing for seven days of sick leave guaranteed by year. But it did not obtain the required 60 votes in the Senate.

“I have been very clear: I will continue to fight for the payment of sick leave, not only for railroad workers, but for all American workers,” Joe Biden promised on Thursday.