WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. House of Representatives moved swiftly to stop a looming nationwide rail strike on Wednesday, passing legislation binding businesses and workers to a proposed settlement.
The bill passed by 290 votes to 137 and will be sent to the Senate. If approved there, it will be signed by President Joe Biden. The Senate to act swiftly.
“Unless a final vote to avoid this week’s closure is ensured, railroads will begin to stop moving critical substances, including chemicals to clean drinking water, as early as this weekend,” Biden said. “Let me say it again: if we don’t take action this week, we will disrupt the automotive supply chain, end our ability to bring food to the table, and kick off our ability to remove hazardous waste from gasoline refineries.”
Business groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce and the US Federation of Farmers have warned that stopping rail service would be devastating. $2 billion a day hits the economy.
The bill would impose brokered and compromised labor contracts The Biden administration was ultimately defeated by 4 of the 12 unions representing about 115,000 employees on the massive freight railroad. Unions have threatened to go on strike if no deal is reached by the December 9 deadline.
Lawmakers from both parties expressed reservations about overturning the negotiations. The intervention has been particularly difficult for Democratic lawmakers who have traditionally tried to ally with the politically powerful unions that criticized Biden’s move. Intervene in contract disputes and deter strikes.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to those concerns by adding a second vote on Wednesday to add seven days of paid sick leave per year to railroad workers covered under the agreement. It will only take effect if you vote in favor and pass both bills. The House also passed a sick leave bill, but it passed by a much narrower margin of 221-207 due to overwhelming Republican opposition.
Business groups and the American Railroad Association applauded the House for blocking the strike, but urged senators to resist adding sick time to contracts.
“Unless Congress wants to be the de facto tail end of future negotiations, it will not give a thumbs-up to the size of negotiations to artificially favor one party or thwart a quick resolution. Any effort to do so is completely irresponsible. AAR.
Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation and Trade unions, including all railroad unions, applauded the vote to add sick time and told lawmakers who voted against it to “abandon a member of your working class.” said.
The focus shifts to the Senate, where the timing of the vote is unclear. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg will meet with Democratic senators on Thursday to discuss railroad talks. Some Democrats are pushing for the Senate to vote to give him seven days of paid sick leave.
“A multi-billion dollar industry engaged in buybacks has doubled its profit margins during the pandemic, but it shouldn’t force workers to work when they are sick or injured. said D-Mass Senator Elizabeth Warren.
But most Republicans are reluctant to change the interim settlement reached in September.
“I think it sets a bad precedent for us to get into the nuances and details of something like this that has been negotiated for three years,” said Senator John Thune, RS.D.
The request for paid sick leave was a major issue in the negotiations, along with other quality-of-life concerns.After decades of negotiations, unions agreed to give up paid sick leave in favor of higher wages and stronger short-term disability benefits, according to the railroad company.
Jeffries said on Tuesday the railroad would consider adding paid sick leave in the future, but said any changes should wait for a new round of negotiations.
Unions argue that railroads can easily afford additional paid sick leave at a time when they are posting record profits. reported profits of over $100 million. in the third quarter.
“Frankly, the fact that paid leave is not part of the final agreement between railroads and workers is obscene in my opinion,” said D-Mass Rep. Jim McGovern.
Most railroad workers do not receive paid sick leave, but there are short-term disability benefits that start after just four days and can replace a portion of your earnings for a year or more. Vacation and personal leave are also given to rail workers, but they usually have to be approved well in advance, making it difficult to use them due to illness, workers say.
In the House, Republicans expressed support for measures to stop the strike, but criticized the Biden administration for turning to Congress to “intervene to straighten out the chaos.” About 79 Republicans, along with an overwhelming majority of Democrats, voted for a bill binding both parties to a tentative settlement.
But Republicans criticized Pelosi’s decision to add the sick leave bill to the mix, with only three of them voting on the resolution. said it recommended higher wages to compensate for not including sick leave in the union’s recommendation.
“If Congress is going to come in and make changes to all the recommendations, why are we setting up the system the way it is?” said to
Pelosi has tried to position Democrats and the Biden administration as champions of the union, but said Congress needs to intervene to avoid a strike.
“Families will not be able to buy food and life-saving medicines because it will become more expensive and perishable goods will spoil before they reach the shelves,” Pelosi said.
The compromise, backed by a majority of railroads and unions, offers a 24% pay rise, a $5,000 bonus, and an extra day of paid vacation, dating back to 2020. The pay raise is the largest a railroad worker has received in more than 40 years. Workers have to pay a larger portion of the cost of health insurance, but premiums are limited to his 15% of the total cost of the insurance plan. The agreement did not address workers’ concerns about schedules that made it difficult to take time off and lack of paid sick leave.
Several times in the past, Congress has intervened in labor disputes by enacting laws to delay or ban rail and airline strikes.
Funk reported from Omaha, Nebraska.