US President Joe Biden Tuesday urged Congress to pass legislation codifying a tentative agreement with rail unions that threaten to strike if action is not taken soon. Congress also has the option to push back the date on which a strike would begin if agreements haven’t been reached.
Biden touted that the agreement “provides a historic 24% pay raise for rail workers. It provides improved health care benefits. And it provides the ability of operating craft workers to take unscheduled leave for medical needs.” However, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, one of the rail unions that voted against ratifying the agreement, asserted that “their contributions are worth more, particularly when it comes to a basic right of being able to take time off for illness or to prevent illness.”
In response to Biden’s statement encouraging Congress to pass the tentative deal, the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, which also voted against the deal on account of insufficient sick day policies, said:
It is not enough to “share workers’ concerns.” A call to Congress to act immediately to pass legislation that adopts tentative agreements that exclude paid sick leave ignores the Railroad Workers’ concerns. It both denies Railroad Workers their right to strike while also denying them of the benefit they would likely otherwise obtain if they were not denied their right to strike.
Experts predict that widespread rail strikes would kneecap the economy, especially during the holiday season. While taking legislative action is atypical, the window to pass this bill while the House still has a Democratic majority is swiftly closing, and waiting until January when the Republican party regains control of the house may stall unions’ outstanding requests for better sick pay policies entirely.