The United States House of Representatives voted on Nov. 30 to pass a bill that would force the railroad and the unions to abide by the terms outlined in the September tentative agreement.
The measure passed by a vote of 290-137 and now heads to the Senate. If approved, it will be quickly signed by President Joe Biden, who requested the action.
“To be clear, it is the policy of the United States to encourage collective bargaining, and the administration is reluctant to override union ratification procedures and the views of those union members who voted against the agreement,” the White House said.
“But in this case — where the societal and economic impacts of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families — Congress must use its powers to resolve this impasse.”
If you’ll recall, on July 15, President Joe Biden blocked a freight railroad strike in Omaha, Nebraska. This strike would disrupt the fragile supply chain by delaying the shipment of goods for at least 60 days.
To combat this, President Biden appointed a board of arbitrators, the Presidential Emergency Board, to help the dispute with contract building and negotiation mediation.
The appointed Presidential Emergency Board gave the 12 unions involved a 124-page report outlining their suggested terms.
Early on Sept. 15, it was announced that the six Class I railroads and union workers reached a tentative deal with the management council for the rail carriers.
The tentative deal prevented about 115,000 conductors, engineers, and other employees from staging a walkout.
In a statement by President Biden, he said this deal would guarantee “better pay, improved working conditions and peace of mind around their health care costs.”
Just when we thought the rail unions and railroads had reached a deal that pleased both parties, on October 10, approximately 12,000 union workers voted against the tentative labor agreement.
On Nov. 21, it was announced that The Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers union and their 500+ Transportation Division members rejected the tentative agreement negotiated in mid-September by Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and other officials.
Senate leaders have hinted toward scheduling a vote for the bill as early as Dec. 1. There have been several past occasions where Congress has intervened in a labor dispute in attempts to stop railroad and airway strikes. For more stories like this, subscribe to our newsletter.
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