The threat of a railroad strike this month exposed the vulnerability of U.S. transportation networks and revealed potential new risks of supply-chain disruptions just as pandemic-era bottlenecks were fading, David Harrison reported for The Wall Street Journal.
Photo Insert: Workers have complained about the law pay for so many years despite rail companies amassing huge profits.
President Biden signed into law a bill Friday compelling freight railroads and their workers’ unions to accept a labor agreement, averting a strike that might have disrupted a logistical linchpin of the economy.
Even with the dispute resolved, the episode brought about a heightened awareness that supply hiccups could become an ongoing feature of business life in America.
Businesses and policymakers plan for a “new normal” of potential disruption of supplies of everything from coal to components, with the COVID pandemic initially disrupting production due to lockdowns, followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine that raised fuel prices and torpedoed the normal flow of grain as both countries account for more than 40% of the world’s wheat.
Even before the latest labor strife, freight rail customers complained that low staffing levels had hampered rail service, leading to scrutiny from federal regulators. On the other hand, workers have complained about the law pay for so many years despite rail companies amassing huge profits.
They are even scrimping on sick leaves and threatening to fire those who are on sick bay, even as no one chooses to be down with ailments.