Democrat-Controlled House Passes Bill to Impose Contract on Rail Workers in Effort to Prevent Strike

Norfolk Southern locomotives work in the in the Conway Terminal on Sept. 15, 2022, in Conway, Pa. Another railroad union rejected its deal with the major freight railroads Wednesday, Oct. 26, as workers are increasingly frustrated with the lack of paid sick time in the industry, adding to concerns about …
AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impose a contract on rail workers in an effort to prevent a December 9 strike date that poses substantial economic ramifications.

H.J. Resolution 100 passed by a margin of 290-137, with 221 Democrat and 79 Republican votes. The legislation would impose the tentative agreement that Labor Secretary Marty Walsh brokered between rail unions and carriers in September, which was ultimately rejected by the rank-and-file workers of four unions involved in the agreement.

The House narrowly passed another resolution granting workers seven days paid sick leave, which was a central hold-up between the two parties, as CNBC reported. The bill, House Concurrent Resolution 119, passed by a margin of 221-207, with support from only three Republicans.

Now the bills head to the Senate, where leaders of both parties hope to pass legislation quickly, as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told reporters Tuesday.

Biden called for Congress to impose the now-rejected tentative agreement in order to avoid an economy-crippling strike right before Christmas. The pro-union president’s move, which thwarted union leverage in their negotiations with rail companies, drew criticism from Senate Republicans, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO).

“Just because Congress has the authority to impose a heavy-handed solution does not mean we should. It is wrong for the Biden Administration, which has failed to fight for workers, to ask Congress to impose a deal the workers themselves have rejected,” said the senior senator from Florida.

Rubio declared he would not support legislation not backed by union workers and asserted that the “whole episode highlights many of the ongoing problems with our economy,” adding:

On the one hand, Wall Street’s drive for efficiency has turned rail workers into little more than line items on a spreadsheet. On the other hand, you have union leadership so disconnected from its rank and file that they struck a deal their members can’t support.

Hawley slammed “Mr. ‘Pro-worker’ Joe Biden” in a tweet Wednesday and declared he would not back a deal that the workers rejected. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) called the matter the Biden Administration’s “responsibility,” and Sen Rick Scott (R-FL) said he would not support the legislation imposing the tentative agreement rejected by workers.

Thune said Wednesday that the GOP is in talks about introducing an amendment to delay the strike date for a month to give the unions and carriers additional time to negotiate and to halt Congressional intervention, as Manu Raja, CNN’s Chief congressional correspondent, reported.

Rail companies, which would benefit from congressional intervention, estimated that some $2 billion daily would bleed from the economy during a strike, as the Associated Press has noted.

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