Biden Gov't Averts Nat'l Railway Strike
President Joe Biden believes unions built the middle class. He also knew a rail worker strike could damage the economy ahead of midterm elections.
Photo Insert: Without the deal that was reached among the 12 unions, a stoppage could have begun as early as Friday that could halt shipments of food and fuel at a cost of $2 billion a day.
That left him in the awkward position of espousing the virtues of unionization in Detroit, a stalwart of the labor movement, while members of his administration went all-out to keep talks going in Washington between the railroads and unionized workers in hopes of averting a shutdown, Josh Boak and Zeke Miller reported for the Associated Press (AP).
But after a long night, the talks succeeded and Biden announced Thursday that the parties had reached a tentative agreement to avoid a shutdown that would go to union members for a vote.
The Democratic president hailed the deal in a statement for avoiding a shutdown and as a win for all sides. “These rail workers will get better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs: all hard-earned,” Biden said.
“The agreement is also a victory for railway companies who will be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.” It looked far more tenuous for the president just a day earlier.
American industry still relies on railroads. It would take a theoretical 80,000 truck drivers to make up for the loss of massive freight trains that normally rumble slowly across the country, sometimes pulling more than 240 wagons.
The rail workers' strike could lead to food shortages, leave farmers' crops idling on sidings, shutter the car manufacturing industry, empty store shelves, and send economic reverberations around the world, Stephen Collinson, Caitlin Hu and Shelby Rose reported for CNN.
Without the deal that was reached among the 12 unions, a stoppage could have begun as early as Friday that could halt shipments of food and fuel at a cost of $2 billion a day. Far more was at stake than sick leave and salary bumps for 115,000 unionized railroad workers.
The ramifications could extend to control of Congress and to the shipping network that keeps factories rolling, stocks the shelves of stores and stitches the U.S. together as an economic power, David Shepardson and Lisa Baertlein also reported for Reuters.