AP

Biden intervenes in railroad contract fight to block strike

Jul 15, 2022, 12:22 PM | Updated: 6:07 pm

President Joe Biden arrives at King Abdulaziz International Airport, Friday, July 15, 2022, in Jedd...

President Joe Biden arrives at King Abdulaziz International Airport, Friday, July 15, 2022, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — President Joe Biden on Friday blocked a freight railroad strike for at least 60 days by naming a board of arbitrators to intervene in the contract dispute, averting action that could have disrupted all kinds of shipments.

The widely expected move will keep 115,000 rail workers on the job while the arbitrators develop a set of contract recommendations for both sides to consider. Biden had to act before Monday to prevent a possible strike. A new round of negotiations is likely after those recommendations are issued.

The president wrote in an executive order naming the arbitrators that he’d “been notified by the National Mediation Board that in its judgment these disputes threaten substantially to interrupt interstate commerce to a degree that would deprive a section of the country of essential transportation service.”

If the railroads and their 12 unions can’t agree on a contract within the next 60 days, Congress would likely step in to prevent a strike by voting to impose terms or taking other action.

The United Rail Unions coalition said the labor unions are preparing to make their case to the board of arbitrators, and believe that current economic data shows the raises they are asking for “are more than warranted when compared to our memberships’ contribution to the record profits of the rail carriers.”

The National Carriers Conference Committee, which represents the nation’s freight railroads in national collective bargaining, cheered Biden’s move, noting that it “remains in the best interest of all parties — and the public — for the railroads and rail labor organizations to promptly settle the bargaining round on reasonable terms that provide employees with prompt and well-deserved pay increases and prevent rail service disruptions.”

“Throughout the bargaining round, the railroads have worked to thoughtfully address issues raised by both sides and have offered pay increases that are consistent with labor market benchmarks and reward rail employees for their essential work,” the committee said in a statement.

Any prolonged rail strike could cripple the supply chain that has been slowly recovering from the backlogs and delays that became common during the pandemic because of worker shortages at the ports, trucking companies and railroads as demand for imports surged.

“It’s really in everybody’s best interests to avoid a strike,” Edward Jones analyst Jeff Windau said.

The group that represents Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX, Norfolk Southern, Kansas City Southern and other railroads and the unions have expressed optimism that this new presidential board will be able to help them resolve the dispute that began more than two years ago.

Business groups had urged Biden to take this step to ensure the railroads would continue operating. They worry about what a strike or lockout would mean for the fragile supply chain because railroads deliver all kinds of raw materials, finished products and imported goods that businesses rely on. A railroad strike could jeopardize the health of the economy.

The board of arbitrators will hold hearings with both sides to learn more about their positions before issuing their recommendations about a month from now. The the unions and the railroads will have 30 days to negotiate a new deal before a strike could be permitted under the federal law that governs railroad contract negotiations.

So far, the two sides have remained far apart because workers want raises that will offset inflation and cover increased health insurance costs while reflecting the current nationwide worker shortages. Railroads maintain that the double-digit raises they are offering over the five year contract that would date back to 2020 are fair based on the kind of raises other companies gave their workers at the time.

The unions are expecting significant raises because the railroads have been reporting record profits in recent years since they eliminated nearly one-third of their employees over the past six years as they overhauled their operations.

The unions also want the railroads to back off their proposals to cut train crews from two people down to one and ease some of the strict workplace rules they have adopted in recent years that workers say make it hard to take any time off.

Agreeing to a new deal would likely help the railroads hire more workers, which they are currently struggling to do. The major railroads have said they each need to hire hundreds more workers to handle the increased demand as the economy recovers and deal with the chronic delays and missed deliveries that have plagued their service this year.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

deadly heat wave last summer...

Associated Press

After a deadly heat wave last summer, metro Phoenix is changing tactics

Fresh memories of the deadly heat wave last summer have led Arizona authorities to launch new tactics ahead of summer 2024.

1 day ago

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near...

Associated Press

Man accused of starting wildfire in national wildlife preserve in Yuma

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near the California border.

2 days ago

Colorado River settlement center of new Navajo Nation push...

Associated Press

Tribes say their future is at stake as they push for Congress to consider Colorado River settlement

Navajo officials are celebrating the signing of legislation outlining a proposed Colorado River settlement that would ensure water rights.

5 days ago

Arizona doctors California abortions...

Associated Press

Arizona doctors can come to California to perform abortions under new law signed by Gov. Newsom

Arizona doctors can temporarily come to California to perform abortions for their patients under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

6 days ago

Father convicted of first-degree murder in northern Arizona...

Associated Press

Arizona man convicted of first-degree murder in starvation death of 6-year-old son

A northern Arizona father was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday in the 2020 starvation death of his 6-year-old son.

6 days ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.

...

DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

Biden intervenes in railroad contract fight to block strike