Françoise De Valera James/Dreamstime
Freight Train Travelling Through Nevada © Françoise De Valera James Dreamstime

US Congress Approves Bill to Avert Major Freight Rail Strike

Dec. 2, 2022
The bill, approved by the Senate Thursday after passing with a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives, effectively forces hold-out unions to accept a deal on higher wages, which a majority of unions had agreed to.

Editor's note: President Joe Biden signed the rail strike bill Friday, shortly before noon. 

The U.S. Congress passed legislation Thursday to avert a freight rail strike that would be potentially devastating for the economy, working to break an impasse between workers and management as the holiday season approaches.

The bill, approved by the Senate Thursday after passing with a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives, effectively forces hold-out unions to accept a deal on higher wages, which a majority of unions already agreed to.

Under a 1926 law, Congress is empowered to resolve disputes between railroads and labor unions, as part of its power to regulate commerce.

A strike could see almost 7,000 freight trains come to a halt, costing more than $2 billion a day, according to the American Association of Railroads.

Around 28% of goods transported in the country are by rail, and a large-scale strike would have repercussions on multiple sectors.

President Joe Biden's administration had taken a hands-on approach to the long-running deadlock over a contract between organized labor and railroads, with cabinet secretaries in September taking part in all-night negotiations alongside union leaders and rail executives.

After the lengthy session, leaders from both sides announced a tentative agreement.

But since then, members of eight of the 12 rail unions approved the deal, while four voted it down.

Biden told reporters Thursday that he "negotiated a contract no one else could negotiate."

"We're going to avoid the rail strike, keep the rails running, keep things moving," he added, at a news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Copyright 2022, Agence France-Presse

© Agence France-Presse

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