President Biden signs law preventing freight train strike

WASHINGTON — A nationwide freight railroad strike has officially been averted.

President Joe Biden signed legislation Friday to prevent a strike he says would cripple the economy and put millions of Americans out of work ahead of the holidays.

“We spared the country this catastrophe,” Biden said during a signing ceremony at the White House. “I know it was a tough vote for members of both parties. It was tough for me. But it was the right thing to do at this time.”

At Biden’s urging, Congress voted earlier this week to intervene in a labor dispute between railroad unions and operators of the country’s freight railroads. Lawmakers voted to pass a tentative deal the White House brokered in September between union leaders and railroad operators despite opposition from some rank-and-file workers.

Four of the 12 unions representing railway workers rejected the deal, paving the way for a work stoppage that would have started on December 9. The unions wanted more than the paid sick day provided for in the agreement.

Some union leaders have criticized the government’s decision to intervene, accusing many elected officials of turning their backs on workers.

“While we are disappointed, we are not defeated,” the AFL-CIO’s Greg Regan and Shari Semelsberger said in a joint statement. “We are going to move this fight forward, whether through legislation, executive action or bringing the railroads back to the bargaining table.”

Biden, promising he would pursue expanded sick leave for all American workers, said “this fight is not over. … I will continue this fight until we succeed.

The lawmakers’ decision to pass the deal marked the first time in 30 years that Congress has stepped in to stop a strike.

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The deal Biden signed includes a 24% pay raise over five years, $5,000 bonuses, voluntary days off, but only one paid sick day.

An additional measure passed in the House would have provided railroad workers with seven paid sick days. The Senate rejected additional paid sick leave over demands by Progressives who said the railroads could afford to treat their workers better.

Biden, a union supporter, had warned that a railroad strike would cost the economy about $2 billion a day and claim 765,000 jobs in the first two weeks of a strike.

Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.

President Biden signs law preventing freight train strike

USA Today

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