WASHINGTON 2 DECEMBER (Reuters) The president Joe Biden signed legislation Friday to stop a major U.S. railroad strike that could have destroyed the American economy.
The U.S. Senate voted 80 to 15 on Thursday to enforce an agreement on a contract that was that was reached in September with unions representing 115,000 employees, who were likely to go in strike on Dec. 9. However, the Senate did not approve the measure which would have granted employees with paid sick days. employees.
“It was difficult for me, but it was the right decision right now — preserve jobs, protect millions of families working from disruption and danger, and to ensure supply chains remain in check during the holiday season,” Biden said, saying the agreement averted “an economic disaster.”
The unions of eight had signed the agreement. However, some union officials have criticised Biden who is a self-described friend of labor, by asking Congress to force a deal that union members in four unions have opposed due to its absence of paid sick time.
Railroads have cut down on labor and other costs to increase profits in recent years and have been adamantly against the idea of introducing paid sick days that would force them to recruit more employees.
The rail accident could’ve frozen nearly 30 percent of U.S. cargo shipments by weight. It could have also sparked already high inflation, and cost the American economy nearly $2 billion per day and forced millions of rail travelers.
U.S. President Biden and French President Macron jointly hold a news gathering on the White House in Washington
[1/3[1/3 U.S. President Joe Biden holds a news event together with French president Emmanuel Macron in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., December 1 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
There aren’t any paid short-term sick days in the tentative agreement, after unions requested 15 days, and railroads agreed to one day off for personal use.
The president of Teamsters Sean O’Brien harshly criticized the Senate vote regarding sick leave. “Rail carriers earn record profits. Rail workers get zero paid sick days. Are they allowed to do this? Paid sick leave is a fundamental human right. This system is ineffective,” O’Brien wrote on Twitter.
Congress used its broad powers to stop strikes involving transportation – a power that it doesn’t have in other disputes over labor.
The agreement that takes effect when Biden signs it will include a compounded 24% pay hike over the course of five years, and five lump-sum payments.
American Association of Railroads CEO Ian Jefferies said “none of the organizations achieved the goals they fought for” however, he added that “without doubt, there’s more to be done to take care of our employees’ work-life balance issues.”
Without the law rail workers might be out of work next week, but the effects will be felt as quickly after this weekend when railroads stopped accepting hazardous material shipment and commuter railroads started stopping passenger service.
The contracts cover employees employed by carriers such as Union Pacific (UNP.N), Berkshire Hathaway Inc’s (BRKa.N) BNSF, CSX (CSX.O), Norfolk Southern Corp (NSC.N) and Kansas City Southern.