White House announces tentative agreement to avoid freight train strike

White House announces tentative agreement to avoid freight train strike

Washington ( Business) — Unions and companies reached a tentative agreement early Thursday to avert a freight rail strike that had threatened to cripple US supply chains and raise prices for many products.

The deal with unions representing more than 50,000 engineers and drivers was announced shortly after 5 a.m. ET in a White House statement, which called it “an important victory for our economy and the American people.”

It came after 20 hours of talks between union leaders and railroad labor negotiators organized by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh. They began their meeting Wednesday morning with time running out for a strike scheduled to begin at 12:01 am ET on Friday.

The agreement does not mean that the strike threat has completely disappeared. The agreement must be ratified by the union members. But it’s good news for a wide range of businesses that depend on freight rail to continue operating, and for the US economy as a whole. About 30% of the country’s cargo moves by rail.

Few details of the deal have been made public so far. But President Joe Biden’s statement indicated that the main issue that had brought the country within a day of its first national rail strike in 30 years had been addressed in favor of the unions.

“It’s a victory for tens of thousands of rail workers who worked tirelessly during the pandemic to ensure that America’s families and communities received what has kept us going through these difficult years,” Biden said in the statement. “These rail workers will get better wages, better working conditions and peace of mind about their health care costs – all hard-earned.”

The dispute was over staffing shortages and scheduling rules that union leaders said had brought their membership to a breaking point. The unions say the railroads have been requiring their members to be “on call” and ready to report for work at short notice up to seven days a week. Leaders of the two unions had said their members would not agree to a contract without changes to those labor rules.

Biden described the deal as “also a victory for rail companies that will be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will remain part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”

Train tracks are seen on September 14, 2022 in Houston, Texas, prior to the announcement of the deal that averted the rail strike. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

It’s an important win for Biden, who faces tough decisions if no deal is reached. Backing congressional action sought by the business community to impose a contract on workers would have angered his supporters among the unions. Letting the work stoppage play out risked huge economic fallout just before the midterm elections.

Amtrak seeks to restore service after settlement

State-owned Amtrak now says it “is working quickly to reinstate canceled trains” following the announcement of a tentative deal to prevent freight rail workers from striking.

The railroad had planned to cancel all long-distance trains, as well as some state-sponsored trains on ten other lines. He had already canceled some of his long-distance runs.

“Amtrak is working to quickly reinstate canceled trains and contact affected customers to accommodate them on the first available departures,” the railroad said in a statement. “Will provide an update as information becomes available.”

Railroad workers are governed by a different labor law than most workers, one that limits their freedom to strike and allows for more government intervention. In July, Biden issued an order preventing a strike at the time and created a panel, known as the Emergency Presidential Board, to try to find a solution to the dispute.

It also imposed a 60-day cooling off period during which unions could not strike and management could not fire workers. That period of reflection was due to end early Friday.

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Written by Editor TLN

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