Congress Could Act On Pending Railroad Strike; Both Sides Tip-Toeing As Midterms Loom Near

  • by:
  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 03/04/2023

The likelihood of a nationwide train strike is alarmingly increasing, and a planned walkout on Friday appears to be gaining pace like a locomotive. On how to stop it, though, Congress on Wednesday remained as split as the railroads and labor unions.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT, vetoed a GOP resolution to compel railroad businesses and labor unions to reach a settlement, despite President Joe Biden emphasizing the need to prevent a shutdown that would worsen supply chain issues.

The railways should allow employees to take unpaid time off so they may attend doctor’s appointments or take care of other personal matters without being punished, according to the unions. Sanders is firmly in support of the employees; he declared that he would not make them accept a settlement that denied them the wages, dependable schedules, sick days, and secure working conditions to which they are legally entitled.

Republicans want the trains to continue running. The flow of products and people using American railroads would be halted if the two parties cannot reach an agreement by Friday. This will come at a huge cost to an already shaky economy that is striving to escape an inflationary spiral.

Democrats and Republicans are unable to come to an agreement on a solution at this time, therefore Congress might intervene to prevent a strike and put conditions on the railways and unions.

Businesses are worried that a rail strike would be what the Business Roundtable dubbed a “economic disaster,” so they have written letters to politicians over the last week pushing them to be ready to intervene.

If Congress must resolve this disagreement, politics will be involved given that the midterm elections are just a few weeks away. Democrats are fearful of coming to blows with labor union members and supporters.

Republicans see a chance to put pressure on Biden and his party if the railways teeter on a strike at the same time.

A rail strike, according to the numerous companies that depend on railways to carry their raw materials and finished goods, would pose serious issues, especially for oil refineries, chemical companies, automakers, merchants, and agricultural organizations. A strike, according to the trade association for railroads, would cost the economy more than $2 billion every day.

If the railways do shut down, businesses would probably try to switch to trucks and other forms of cargo, but there isn’t enough trucking capacity to pick up all the slack. To convey all that railroads currently handle, according to the railroad trade organization, 467,000 additional vehicles per day would be needed.

Because Amtrak and many commuter railways use tracks that are controlled by freight railroads, a strike by freight railroads would also cause delays for passenger travel. A handful of Amtrak’s long-distance trains have already been canceled this week, and the company said that all remaining long-distance trains will cease on Thursday in advance of the strike deadline.

The Hill claims that Biden has not provided Congress with instructions on how to continue despite the White House’s public declaration that it cannot tolerate a strike.

At Tuesday’s daily press conference, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated, “We have made clearly plain to the interested parties the devastation that American families, companies, farms, and communities would endure if they were not to achieve a settlement.”

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