Biden Urges Congress to Intervene, Avert Rail Strike That Could Inflict ‘Billions’ in Economic Damage

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President Joe Biden on Monday urged Congress to pass legislation to immediately adopt the tentative agreement between railroad workers and operators in an effort to avert a “potentially crippling national rail shutdown” that is set to start in less than two weeks.

A potential strike on Dec. 9 could bring rail travel to a standstill while impacting the U.S. supply chain and inflicting billions of dollars in economic damage, officials have warned.

An analysis by the Association of American Railroads (pdf) published in September said such a strike could cost the U.S. economy more than $2 billion every day at a time when inflation is already soaring.

Congress could step in to prevent such a strike from occurring by imposing contract terms on railroad workers under the Railway Labor Act which was passed in 1926.

“Let me be clear: a rail shutdown would devastate our economy. Without freight rail, many U.S. industries would shut down. My economic advisors report that as many as 765,000 Americans – many union workers themselves – could be put out of work in the first two weeks alone,” Biden said in a statement from the White House on Monday.

The president added that farmers and communities across the country could also be impacted by the strike; with the former being unable to feed their livestock and the latter potentially losing access to clean drinking water.

‘No Path to Resolve the Dispute’

Biden asked lawmakers to adopt a tentative deal brokered by the White House announced in September “without any modifications or delay.”

Under that deal, union members would receive a 24 percent pay raise over five years along with improved health care benefits, and operating craft workers would be granted the ability to take unscheduled leave for medical needs.

Since that deal was announced in September, the majority of the unions in the industry, approximately eight, have voted to approve the deal.

By Katabella Roberts

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