AP

Railroad unions decry Biden’s plan to block possible strike

Nov 29, 2022, 2:43 PM | Updated: Nov 30, 2022, 7:53 am

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Railroad unions on Tuesday decried President Joe Biden’s call for Congress to intervene in their contract dispute, saying it undercuts their efforts to address workers’ quality of life concerns, but businesses stressed that it is crucial to avoid a strike next week that would devastate the economy.

Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that lawmakers will be asked to vote Wednesday to impose the terms of the deals the 12 unions agreed to before an original strike deadline in September, even though four of those unions representing more than half of the 115,000 rail workers rejected them. Eight other unions ratified the five-year deals that include 24% raises and $5,000 in bonuses.

Biden said he reluctantly agreed that it would be best to override the union votes because the potential damage to the economy would be too great.

“Congress I think has to act to prevent it,” Biden said Tuesday. “It’s not an easy call but I think we have to do it. The economy’s at risk.”

Unions and worker groups have been pushing to improve the demanding schedules they say make it hard for workers to ever take a day off and persuade railroads to add paid sick time. They have threatened to strike if new agreements can’t be reached before a Dec. 9 deadline.

“It is not enough to ‘share workers’ concerns’,” said the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division union said in a statement. “A call to Congress to act immediately to pass legislation that adopts tentative agreements that exclude paid sick leave ignores the railroad workers’ concerns.” The union is one of the four that rejected their deal.

The railroads that include BNSF, Union Pacific, CSX, Kansas City Southern and Norfolk Southern have refused to consider adding sick time because they didn’t want to spend any more on the labor deals than they agreed to in September. They have also argued that rail unions have agreed over the decades to forego paid sick time in favor of higher wages and stronger short-term disability benefits.

Conductor Gabe Christenson, who is co chairman of the Railroad Workers United coalition that includes workers from all the rail unions, said Biden and the Democrats are siding with the railroads over workers.

“The ‘most labor-friendly president in history’ has proven that he and the Democratic Party are not the friends of labor they have touted themselves to be,” said Christenson, whose group encouraged workers to reject these deals. “These wolves in sheep’s clothing have for decades been in bed with corporate America and have allowed them to continue chipping away at the American middle class and organized labor.”

Paul Lindsey, a longtime Union Pacific engineer based in Pocatello, Idaho, who is active with Railroad Workers United, said Congress and Biden seem to be sending the message that “your quality of life, your time off, your days, your standard of living doesn’t matter if you getting a pay increase is going to hurt business.”

Diesel mechanic Nathaniel Tinsley, who works for BNSF in the Kansas City area, said it’s disheartening to see Congress take away workers’ ability to strike, making it harder to put pressure on the railroads.

“The railroads are making tons of money … yet we’re squabbling over sick days,” Tinsley said. “The railroaders just want a little bit more time off. They want to be able to not have to go to work sick because that’s what we do. We go to work sick.”

But business groups that have been pressuring Congress and Biden to intervene in the talks praised the president’s decision and said they hope Republicans and Democrats can work together to resolve this quickly.

“Truly, the only thing standing in the way of ensuring the American economy doesn’t take a major hit as a consequence of a catastrophic rail strike is the United States Congress,” said Mike Sommers, president and chief executive officer of the American Petroleum Institute. “We need to make sure that the United States Congress acts on this as quickly as possible.”

A rail strike would affect nearly every industry because so many businesses rely on railroads to deliver their raw materials and finished products. The railroads have estimated that a strike would cost the economy $2 billion a day and could force many manufacturers to shut down and lay off workers. Plus, commuter railroads and Amtrak would be disrupted because many of them rely on tracks owned by the freight railroads.

Mike Seyfert, CEO of the National Grain and Feed Association, said the widespread severe impact that’s expected if there is a rail strike should inspire bipartisan agreement among lawmakers. The impact of a strike would begin to be felt up to a week before the deadline because railroads would begin halting shipments of hazardous chemicals and perishable products ahead of time to ensure they wouldn’t be stranded along the tracks.

“Last time I checked, every constituent of every member of the House and Senate has to eat,” Seyfert said. “And so I would think that when you look at potential impacts to the food and ag supply chain hopefully that would help to move this agreement along.”

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

AP

Arizona will not approve new housing construction on the fast-growing edges of metro Phoenix that r...

Associated Press

Arizona Senate passes plan to manage rural groundwater, but final success is uncertain

A plan to manage rural groundwater passed the Arizona Senate amid concerns about the availability of sufficient water for future generations.

12 hours ago

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month.

1 day ago

This undated image provided by Mikel Desmond shows his brother Marcus Tessier, who turned up in Dem...

Associated Press

Missing teen with autism found in New Mexico, about 200 miles away from his Arizona home

A missing teen with autism has been found in New Mexico — about 200 miles away from his home in southern Arizona.

1 day ago

A newly released report on last year’s fatal crash involving a pickup truck and a group of bicycl...

Associated Press

Report suggests steering of vehicle that caused fatal Goodyear bicycle crash worked fine

A new report on last year’s fatal Goodyear bicycle crash has cast doubts about the driver’s claim the vehicle’s steering locked up.

2 days ago

Israeli Embassy...

Associated Press

US airman dies after setting himself ablaze outside Israeli Embassy in Israel-Hamas war protest

An active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force has died after he set himself ablaze outside the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

4 days ago

Biden and Trump to visit Mexico border Thursday immigration...

Associated Press

Biden and Trump both plan trips to the Mexico border Thursday, dueling for advantage on immigration

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump will make dueling trips to the U.S-Mexico border on Thursday.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

...

Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Railroad unions decry Biden’s plan to block possible strike