US rail strikes: Why Joe Biden signed a new strike stop law

The rail strike may have stopped 30% of freight shipments in the United States, cost the American economy up to $2 billion a day, and stranded millions of rail passengers.



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President Joe Biden has signed legislation to prevent a national US rail strike, which may have crippled the US economy. (Image: Getty)

“It was hard for me, but it was the right thing to do right now — save jobs, protect millions of working families from harm and disruption, and keep supply chains stable for the holiday period,” Biden said, adding that the agreement was signedriday. (December 2) “economic disaster.”

This rail strike may have stopped about 30% of freight shipments in the US, fueled already soaring inflation, and cost the US economy up to $2 billion a day, stranding millions of rail passengers. Here is everything you need to know about it.

Why do railway workers want to strike?

On Thursday (December 1), the US Senate voted 80-15 to force a preliminary contract agreement made in September on twelve unions representing the 115,000 workers who would have struck on December 9.

President Joe Biden has signed legislation to prevent a national US rail strike, which may have crippled the US economy. (Image: Getty)

American railroads have cut labor and other costs in recent years to boost profits, and have staunchly opposed extending paid sick time to workers, which could necessitate them having to hire additional staff.

Many labor leaders have criticized Biden, who has described himself as a friend of labor, for pressing Congress to enforce a contract four unions have rejected over his lack of paid sick leave. “This fight is not over,” Biden said on the campaign for more sick leave.

The temporary agreement does not include any paid short-term sick days—the unions asked for 15—as the railway agreed to only one “personal day”.

Sean O’Brien, president of the Teamsters union, wrote on Twitter: “Railroad companies are making record profits. Railroad workers don’t get any paid sick leave. Is that OK? Paid sick leave is a basic human right. This system is failing.” .

Congress used its broad powers to stop transportation strikes, a power it does not have in other labor disputes.

“None of the parties have achieved all that they stood for,” said Ian Jeffries, CEO of the American Association of Railroads but added, “Without a doubt, more needs to be done to address the work-life balance concerns of our employees.”

What does the rail strike mean for America?

The rail strike may have stopped about 30% of freight shipments in the US, sent inflation already soaring, costing the US economy up to $2 billion a day, and stranding millions of rail passengers.

Without the new law, train staff might have gone on strike onriday (9 December), but the consequences could have been felt much earlier, as railways stopped accepting shipments of hazardous materials and commuter rail lines began suspending passenger services.