President Biden announced early Thursday morning that days of negotiations at the U.S. Department of Labor to avoid a national rail strike,may have resulted in a deal.
In a statement, Biden said the “initial agreement” between railroad and rail workers unions was “a significant win for our economy and the American people” and “a win for tens of thousands of rail workers who have worked tirelessly through a pandemic to ensure America’s families and communities receive shipments of It kept us going through these difficult years.”
Biden said U.S. rail workers will “get better salaries, improved working conditions, and peace of mind about health care costs: it’s all hard earned,” thanks to the agreement, which he said is “also a victory for railroad companies that will be able to Retain and hire more workers in an industry that will continue to be a part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”
The president met negotiators in the Oval Office later Thursday morning, describing the rail system as the “backbone of the nation” in brief comments, before making official remarks on the agreement.
“This agreement is a huge victory for America and for both, in my view,” he said during his Rose Garden speech, adding that the temporary work deal is “a confirmation of what I have always believed in: union and management can work together.”
“For the American people, this agreement could avoid the significant damage any shutdown would have done. Our country’s rail system is the backbone of our supply chain, and everything that depends on it,” Mr. Biden continued.
The deal will now be put to unions for a vote to finalize the agreement. The union leaders representing rail workers said the hack provided for “the highest overall wage increase over the life of the agreement in more than 45 years”.
Unions said workers would receive an immediate 14% increase, with an overall increase of 24% over the five-year deal. They will also receive annual bonuses of $5,000 and will keep health care shared costs and deductibles unchanged.
Significantly, all workers would have a day off with pay and be able to take time off for medical reasons, one of the main demands made by unions over the course of the negotiations.
“For the first time, our unions have been able to have negotiating contract language exempting certain leave for certain medical events from carrier attendance policies,” the union leaders said.
A source familiar with the labor talks told CBS News that the negotiating parties agreed to a “cooling off period after ratification” for several weeks, to make sure there was no immediate rail shutdown if the vote was unsuccessful. For any reason.
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh oversaw a marathon negotiating session Wednesday at the Labor Department that led to the agreement, and CBS News has learned that Biden made what one source described as a “crucial call” to negotiations around 9 p.m. local time Wednesday night. .
“After more than 20 consecutive hours of negotiations” at the Labor Department, Walsh said in a tweet, “Railroad and union negotiators have reached a tentative agreement that balances the needs of workers, businesses, and our nation’s economy.”
The announcement came hours after Amtrakfrom Thursday amid the threat of a strike, which could have disrupted not only passenger and freight services, but the US economy. Rail companies have warned that the strike could result in a productivity loss of up to $2 billion a day.
In light of the agreement announced Thursday morning, Amtrak said it was “working to quickly recover ‘canceled trains’ and is communicating with affected customers to accommodate the first available departures.”
The root of the problem was the labor dispute between the railway companies and the union labor force. If the two sides do not reach an agreement, the strike is scheduled to begin shortly after midnight on Friday.
A Labor Department spokesperson told CBS News Wednesday night that dinner has been ordered and that talks in Washington between federal officials, railroad executives and railroad union leaders are continuing. Mr. Biden’s statement about the agreement came around 5 a.m. Thursday.
Without the agreement, the strike would have started on Friday at the end of a 30-day “cooling off” period under the terms of the Rail Labor Act, which governs contract talks in the rail and aviation industries.
It was the American Railroad Association that warned that the stoppage of freight trains could cost the American economy more than $2 billion a day. If the shutdown continues for more than a few days, the impact will likely be felt by millions of consumers, as it will disrupt shipping of nearly all retail products, coal, other fuels and manufacturing components.
Experts say travelers won’t be so lucky either, as many passenger trains run on freight tracks that would be grounded in the event of a strike.
In the past, most recently in 1986, Congress has worked to end strikes on railroads. If an agreement had not been reached this week, both houses could have passed a joint resolution — which the president had to sign — effectively forcing railroad workers to continue working on terms set by the Emergency Board established by the White House earlier this week. general. The US House of Representatives urged Congress to stand aside and be ready to intervene before the deal was announced Thursday morning.
In a statement praising Biden and the Secretary of Labor for their role in the negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asserted that Congress “was willing to take action … to ensure the continued operation of essential transportation services.”
“Led by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the House of Representatives has prepared and reviewed the legislation, so that we are ready to act, in accordance with Section 10 of the Railroad Labor Act,” Pelosi said. Fortunately, this action may not be necessary.
Ed O’Keefe, Stephen Portnoy and Catherine Krupnick contributed to this report.