President Biden announced early Thursday morning that days of negotiations at the US Department of Labor to avert a nationwide railroad strike,had given an agreement.
In a statement, Biden said the “interim deal” between the railroads and railroad unions was “a significant victory for our economy and the American people” and “a victory for tens of thousands of railroad workers. who have worked tirelessly through the pandemic to ensure American families and communities receive deliveries of what has kept us going through these difficult years.”
Mr Biden said American railroad workers would “get better pay, better working conditions and peace of mind about their hard-earned healthcare costs: all hard-earned” from the deal, which he said was “ also a victory for the railroads who will be able to retain and recruit more workers for an industry that will continue to be part of the backbone of the American economy for decades to come.”
The president met with negotiators in the Oval Office later Thursday morning, calling the rail system “the backbone of the nation” in brief comments, before delivering formal remarks on the deal.
“This deal is a big win for America and both, in my opinion,” he said during his speech at the Rose Garden, adding that the tentative working agreement is “validation of what I always believed: union and management can work together.”
“For the American people,” Mr. Biden continued, “this agreement can avoid the significant damage that any shutdown would have caused. Our country’s rail system is the backbone of our supply chain, everything you count.”
The deal will now go to the unions for a vote to finalize the deal. Union presidents representing railway workers said the breakthrough provides “the highest general wage increases over the life of the agreement in more than 45 years”.
Workers will get an immediate 14% raise, with a total increase of 24% over the five-year deal, the unions said. They will also receive annual bonuses of $5,000 and keep their health care co-payments and deductibles unchanged.
Significantly, all workers will get an extra paid day off and have the option to take time off for medical reasons, one of the main demands made by unions during negotiations.
“For the first time, our unions were able to secure negotiated contract language exempting time off for certain medical events from carrier attendance policies,” the union leaders said.
A source familiar with the labor negotiations told CBS News that the parties to the negotiations had agreed to a “post-ratification cooling-off period” of several weeks, to ensure there would not be an immediate shutdown. rail if a vote fails for any reason.
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh oversaw a marathon negotiating session Wednesday at the Labor Department that led to the deal, and CBS News has learned that Mr. Biden made what one source described as a “call crucial” in the negotiations around 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday evening. .
Walsh said in a tweet that “after more than 20 straight hours of negotiations” at the Labor Department, “railroaders and union negotiators have reached a tentative agreement that balances the needs of workers, businesses and society. economy of our country.
The announcement came hours after Amtrakfrom Thursday amid the threat of a strike, which could have disrupted not just passenger and cargo services, but the U.S. economy. The rail companies had warned that the strike could result in a loss of productivity of $2 billion a day.
In light of the agreement announced Thursday morning, Amtrak said it was “working to quickly reinstate ‘cancelled trains’ and reaching out to affected customers to accommodate the earliest available departures.”
The root of the problem was a labor dispute between the railroad companies and their unionized workforce. If the two parties had not reached an agreement, the strike would have started after midnight on Friday.
A Labor Department spokesperson told CBS News Wednesday night that dinner has been ordered and talks in Washington between federal officials, railroad leaders and union leaders for railroad workers are underway. Mr Biden’s statement regarding the deal came around 5 a.m. Thursday.
Without the deal, the strike would have started on Friday at the end of a 30-day “cooling off” period mandated by the Railway Labor Act, which governs contract negotiations in the rail and airline industries.
It was the Association of American Railroads that warned that stopping freight trains could cost the US economy more than $2 billion a day. If a shutdown were to last more than a few days, the impact would likely be felt by millions of consumers, as it would disrupt the shipment of virtually all retail products, coal, other fuels and manufacturing components.
Commuters would also be out of luck as many passenger trains run on freight tracks which would be slowed down in the event of a strike, experts say.
In the past, most recently in 1986, Congress acted to end railroad strikes. If no deal had been reached this week, the two houses could have passed a joint resolution – which the president would have had to sign – effectively forcing railway workers to continue working under terms established by an emergency council created by the House. Blanche earlier this year. The US House of Congress had urged Congress to be ready to intervene ahead of Thursday morning’s announcement of the deal.
In a statement praising Mr. Biden and the Secretary of Labor for their role in the negotiations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi confirmed that Congress has “stands ready to take action … to ensure the uninterrupted operation of security services.” essential transportation.
“Led by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the House prepared and had the legislation considered, so that we were ready to act, pursuant to Section 10 of the Railway Labor Act,” Pelosi said. “Fortunately, this action may not be necessary.”
Ed O’Keefe, Steven Portnoy and Kathryn Krupnick contributed to this report.