President Joe Biden urged Congress Monday to intervene to avert a "potentially crippling national rail shutdown," after multiple rail labor unions shot down an agreement brokered by the White House in September.
American consumers and virtually all industries could take a hit at the beginning of the holiday season if workers do strike as soon as Dec. 5. Congress could intervene and impose contract terms on railroad workers, which is what Mr. Biden is urging them to do. Thanks to the Railway Labor Act, passed in 1926, Congress can force workers back to their stations with a congressional resolution.
"I am calling on Congress to pass legislation immediately to adopt the Tentative Agreement between railroad workers and operators – without any modifications or delay – to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown," Mr. Biden said in a Monday evening statement. ... Congress has the power to adopt the agreement and prevent a shutdown. It should set aside politics and partisan division and deliver for the American people. Congress should get this bill to my desk well in advance of December 9th so we can avoid disruption."
All 12 rail labor unions need to ratify union contracts before Dec. 9 to avoid a shutdown.
In his statement, the president said he shares workers' concerns about the inability to take leave to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member, while pointing out the deal provides a 24% pay raise and allows for unscheduled leave for medical events.
"As a proud pro-labor president, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement," he said. "But in this case – where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families – I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Monday that the House will consider legislation this week on adopting the tentative agreement from September.
"As we consider Congressional action, we must recognize that railroads have been selling out to Wall Street to boost their bottom lines, making obscene profits while demanding more and more from railroad workers," Pelosi said. "We are reluctant to bypass the standard ratification process for the Tentative Agreement — but we must act to prevent a catastrophic nationwide rail strike, which would grind our economy to a halt."
Congress has from their Thanksgiving recess with a busy lame-duck schedule, adding the consideration of a railroad resolution to their list.