Washington Acts to Prevent Rail Strike, Sick Leave Amendment Fails
President Biden on December 2 signed legislation imposing a mediated contract on rail companies and their unions following a contentious ratification process. After federal mediators brokered a compromise agreement, rank and file members of some unions rejected the agreement for failing to add sick leave to the bill.
The unions and management involved in this contract negotiation agreed to federal mediation this summer, which meant that federal mediators worked with both sides to craft a compromise agreement. As part of this process, Congress can act to force the two sides to agree to the compromise agreement.
With a possible rail strike looming, the House and Senate acted on November 30 and December 1, respectively, to pass resolutions imposing the compromise agreement after rail companies were unwilling to reopen the agreement after eight of twelve labor unions in the negotiation had ratified the deal. With the American Association of Railroads warning that a strike could cause $3 billion a day in economic damage, Congress and the Administration felt compelled to Act. President Biden hosted a meeting of House and Senate leadership and all parties agreed to work to pass the agreement.
President Biden quickly signed the bill and praised Congress for working together to prevent a strike.
Four unions failed to ratify the agreement after rank-and-file members objected to the lack of paid sick leave in the deal. A bipartisan amendment to add sick leave passed in the House, but failed to gain 60 votes in the Senate despite a number of Republicans supporting the amendment.