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Crisis Averted: US Congress Votes to Impose Labor Deal for Rail Workers, Measure Heads to Biden

© AFP 2023 / STEFANI REYNOLDSAmtrak trains travel through Washington, DC, on September 15, 2022.
Amtrak trains travel through Washington, DC, on September 15, 2022. - Sputnik International, 1920, 01.12.2022
During a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, US President Joe Biden defended the labor agreement, noting that "what was negotiated was so much better than anything they ever had."
The US Senate passed a resolution on Thursday to avert a nationwide rail strike that had the potential of costing the US billions of dollars if not prevented. The measure now heads to US President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.
The resolution cleared the congressional chamber with a 80-15 vote, after having earlier passed in the House with a 290-137 vote.
Moments before the final vote was held, the Thursday call saw senators reject a separate resolution that sought to guarantee seven days' worth of paid sick leave annually for all rail workers as part of the labor deal. The amendment, which failed with a 52-43 vote in the Senate, had cleared the lower congressional chamber.
Senate lawmakers managed to advance the piece of legislation just eight days before workers were set to go on a nationwide strike on December 9, a move that would have had caused serious setbacks to the US economy. Earlier figures suggested that a rail strike would have come at a daily economic loss of $2 billion.
The legislation effectively enacts new contracts that will provide rail workers with a 24% pay increase over a period of five years through 2024, extra paid off time and immediate payouts that will average some $11,000. The tentative labor deal also provides improved health care benefits.
This April 2, 2021, file photo shows freight train cars and containers at Norfolk Southern Railroad's Conway Yard in Conway, Pa.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.11.2022
Amid Deal Disputes, Poll Finds Most Americans Agree Preventing Rail Strike ‘Very Important’
Earlier this week, Biden called on congressional lawmakers to act quickly and "immediately" send a measure to avert the potential crisis, even though he was initially hesitant to override a vote against the contract by unions opposing the deal.
“As a proud pro-labor president, I am reluctant to override the ratification procedures and the views of those who voted against the agreement,” Biden said. “But in this case - where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families - I believe Congress must use its powers to adopt this deal.”
The Association of American Railroads earlier detailed that four of the 12 labor unions had opposed the labor agreement. Opposition to the deal centered around the lack of paid personal/medical leave for workers.
However, despite the congressional passage, concerns remain that some worker may quit after being given backpay. Jeremy Ferguson, president rail union SMART-TD, informed CNBC that talk was rampant on the "possibility."
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