Biden White House reaches a 'tentative' agreement to avoid national rail strike
On Wednesday, September 14, with the threat of a national rail strike looming in the United States, Amtrak announced that it would be canceling its long-distance train service. But the following morning, the Biden White House announced that it had reached a “tentative” agreement to avoid such a strike.
In an official statement, President Joe Biden said that the deal would guarantee rail workers “better pay, improved working conditions, and peace of mind around their health care costs.”
On Thursday morning, September 15, Lauren Kaori Gurley and Jeff Stein of the Washington Post reported, “The tentative deal — confirmed by a group representing freight rail operators — still faces several steps before it is formally ratified. The unions must still vote on it, but the White House’s blessing of the new terms suggests that the worker groups have been closely involved. Often, the next step of the process can take several weeks, but during that time, union members agree not to strike.”
The deal, according to Gurley and Stein, “includes new leave policies, a significant concession by train carriers to workers who had demanded greater flexibility to be able to miss work for medical emergencies without being fired or punished, according to two people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe details of the negotiation not yet released.”
“As he pressed for a deal,” Gurley and Stein reported, “Biden became personally animated about the lack of leave, and he brought up repeatedly that he did not understand why workers could not be granted more flexible schedules, according to one of the people. Negotiators had until Friday at 12:01 a.m. to reach a deal to avoid a major impact to the economy. Tens of thousands of jobs could have been affected, potentially snarling the shipment of freight and the movement of commuter trains all over the country.”
The Post reporters added, “As the deadline neared, negotiations shifted to Washington, where rail executives and labor leaders met at the Labor Department with Secretary Marty Walsh. Biden remained closely involved in the talks, and phoned Walsh and the negotiators at 9 p.m. Wednesday to encourage them to secure the tentative pact, said a person briefed on the discussions who was not authorized to talk to the media.”
The threat of a rail strike came at time when the U.S. was getting a variety of economic news. Gas prices have fallen, but inflation continues to be a major problem with food prices. The United States’ unemployment rate, meanwhile, remains low — a fact that liberal economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman has often described as a major success of the Biden Administration. In August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the United States’ unemployment rate was 3.7 percent.
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