Representative Image

America's freight rails waiting for Biden's intervention to avoid nationwide strike

Jul 16, 2022

Los Angeles [US], July 16: The first nationwide rail shutdown in the United States since 1992 could occur next Monday if U.S. President Joe Biden missed the deadline to intervene this weekend and keep 115,000 railroad workers from going on strike.
The contract negotiation between The National Carriers' Conference Committee (NCCC), which represents major railroad companies, and labor unions was still on stuck on Friday.
Labor negotiators for the railroads told the Financial Times on Thursday that they offered workers a major pay increase and "benefits among the best in the nation," while a union negotiator rebuked that these offers had been "insulting."
The unions said none of the offers provided by railroads so far do enough to offset inflation or reflect the current worker shortages, and moreover the suggestion from the railroads which want workers to pay more of their health insurance costs would eat up most the proposed salary raises.
In the United States, rail workers are governed by a slew of complex labor laws that dictate when they can legally strike. According to the laws, the two sides of negotiation are in a mandated 30-day "cooling-off" period which would end Monday and at which point crews could legally strike.
The laws also give the president a chance to name a board of arbitrators to review the contract dispute and make recommendations on how to settle it before Monday's deadline. Once Biden does that, any strike or lockout will be delayed 60 days.
A White House official said the administration is going through the standard process to decide whether to appoint this special board, the ABC News channel reported Friday, warning that the deadline is looming.
NCCC Chairman Brendan Branon said in a statement that the railroads are disappointed a deal hasn't been reached yet, but they're hopeful a presidential board will help.
There hasn't been a rail shutdown in the United States since 1992, when machinists at CSX Transportation went on strike. Their work stoppage actually shuttered all American rail operations, including passenger service, which operates on some freight rails.
The 1992's strike, just two days long, cost Americans 1 billion U.S. dollars, according to the estimation by the White House at that time. Businesses that rely on railroads worried the potential strike on Monday could punch the country's economy, which is suffering from a supply chain crisis.
"Any breakdown would be disastrous for U.S. consumers and the economy and potentially return us to the historic supply chain challenges during the depths of the pandemic," wrote Suzanne P. Clark, CEO and president of the Chamber of Commerce, in a July 8 letter to the administration.
Source: Xinhua