Congressional leaders say they will act to stop rail strike

WASHINGTON – Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress announced on Tuesday they will pass legislation blocking a nationwide railway strikesaid it agreed with President Biden that shutting down just days before Christmas would disrupt shipping and deal a blow to the national economy.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, said after meeting at the White House with Mr Biden and his Republican counterparts that they would act quickly to transition legislation through the chambers.

“Tomorrow morning, we will introduce a bill,” Pelosi said. “I don’t like going against the ability of unions to strike, but in consideration of fairness, we must avoid strikes. Jobs will be lost. Even union jobs will be lost.”

Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, told reporters after the meeting that “we’re going to need to pass a bill” to prevent a railroad strike, suggesting that Republicans has no intention of trying to prevent such a move.

During a meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday morning, Biden acknowledged that congressional intervention was “not easy,” but said it was necessary because the economy was “at risk.” in labor disputes.

Mr. Biden’s request for Congress to intervene underscores the recognition that a rail strike could have a devastating effect on a fragile economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Freezing railroads would disrupt supply chains for commodities such as timber, coal and chemicals, and slow deliveries of cars and other consumer goods, pushing prices higher again.

The last time Congress intervened to resolve a nationwide railroad dispute was in 1992, when the International Association of Machinists launched a nationwide strike. Congress intervened to stop the strike two days later, passing legislation signed the same day by President George Bush.

Congress has the power to intervene in a many different waysincluding the enactment of an agreement directly through the law — whether it is an agreement that some unions have voted to reject or an agreement offer less generous that a presidential council issued over the summer.

Pelosi said that House members would vote on the tentative deal the Biden administration helped negotiate between railroads and unions earlier this year. Eight unions voted in favor of that deal, but four did not, leaving the threat of a strike alive.

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader in the House, said after Tuesday’s meeting that “I think it’s going to pass.”

Schumer said he was optimistic that the Senate would quickly vote to do the same.

Mr. Biden met with lawmakers to discuss a range of issues they face in the coming days, including funding the government, support for Ukraine and defending same-sex marriage.

Mr. Biden and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill are hoping to make the most of the next few weeks, while the party retains control of both houses of Congress. When the new Congress begins early next year, Republicans will have a slim majority in the House, allowing them to control the agenda there.

The President is a support loyal alliance who has previously argued against congressional intervention in railroad labor disputes, arguing that it unfairly interferes with union bargaining efforts. In 1992, he was one of only six senators to vote against the law that ended another harsh strike by railroad workers.

The decision to accept congressional action as a resolution to the labor dispute was a gamble that risked angering some of the biggest supporters in the working community.

While many union members may be upset at the prospect of congressional intervention, some union leaders may quietly prefer that intervention in December rather than January, when the House of Representatives is under Republican control and is more likely to support the less expensive deal .

The deal, which was voted down by several rail unions earlier this year, would raise wages by nearly 25% between 2020, when the last contract expires, to 2024. But it has been controversial. among railroad workers, who argued that it did not go far enough to solve the problem. they say punishment schedule that affects their personal life and health.

The American Trucking Association, an industry group, recent estimates that relying on trucks to solve rail congestion would require more than 450,000 vehicles — an impossible feat due to a lack of equipment and drivers.

The railroad immediately backed Biden’s legislative call.

Ian Jefferies, chief executive officer of the Association of American Railroads, which represents the major carriers, said in a statement: “No one has benefited from a rail shutdown – not our customers. I’m not a railroad worker and not the American economy. “Now is the right time for Congress to pass legislation.”

Four of 12 unions representing more than 100,000 employees at major rail carriers voted to reject the tentative deal the Biden administration broker helped in September.

Some workers have long suspected that Congress would intervene rather than allow them to strike, a suspicion that Mr. Biden’s labor secretary, Martin J. Walsh, Advanced transparent an interview with CNN this month, when he said that Congress would have to act if the two sides could not come to an agreement on their own. It is not clear whether Mr Walsh is speaking hypothetically or urging intervention.

Later on Tuesday, the Senate is also expected to vote on legislation providing federal protections for same-sex marriages. If the bill passes, the House will still have to vote on it before the end of the current Congress and send it to Mr. Biden’s desk for him to sign.

Additionally, lawmakers face a mid-December deadline to fund the federal government. Disagreeing on a temporary spending package could shut down parts of the federal government.


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