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Biden asks Congress to avert rail strike, warning of dire economic impact

Stock Markets Nov 28, 2022 09:05PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden approaches reporters to answer a question about the crisis in Ukraine and the missile that crashed in Poland as he arrives back at the White House from travel to the G20 and ASEAN summits, on the South Lawn of the Whit
 
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By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday called on Congress to intervene to avert a potential rail strike that could occur as early as Dec. 9, warning of a catastrophic economic impact if railroad service ground to a halt.

Biden asked lawmakers to adopt the tentative deal announced in September "without any modifications or delay - to avert a potentially crippling national rail shutdown" and added that up to 765,000 Americans "could be put out of work in the first two weeks alone."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said lawmakers would take up legislation this week "to prevent a catastrophic nationwide rail strike, which would grind our economy to a halt."

On Monday, more than 400 groups called on Congress to intervene in the railroad labor standoff that threatens to idle shipments of food and fuel and strand travelers while inflicting billions of dollars of economic damage.

A rail traffic stoppage could freeze almost 30% of U.S. cargo shipments by weight, stoke inflation and cost the American economy as much as $2 billion per day by unleashing a cascade of transport woes affecting U.S. energy, agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare and retail sectors.

"A rail shutdown would devastate our economy," Biden said. "Without freight rail, many U.S. industries would shut down ... Communities could lose access to chemicals necessary to ensure clean drinking water. Farms and ranches across the country could be unable to feed their livestock."

Biden hailed the contract deal that includes a 24% compounded wage increase over a five-year period from 2020 through 2024 and five annual $1,000 lump-sum payments.

Workers in four unions have rejected the tentative deal, while workers in eight unions have approved it.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack have been involved in discussions with the rail industry, unions and agriculture industry stakeholders.

Senator Roger Wicker, the top Republican on the Commerce Committee, praised Biden's call to Congress to act and said no one side was fully happy with the compromise contract deal "but the responsible thing to do is avoid the strike."

The Association of American Railroads said "congressional action to prevent a work stoppage in this manner is appropriate ... No one benefits from a rail work stoppage – not our customers, not rail employees and not the American economy."

In a letter on Monday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, American Petroleum Institute, National Restaurant Association, American Trucking Associations and other groups warned that impacts of a potential strike could be felt as soon as Dec. 5.

Biden said Congress "should set aside politics and partisan division and deliver for the American people. Congress should get this bill to my desk well in advance of December 9th so we can avoid disruption."

"The risks to our nation’s economy and communities simply make a national rail strike unacceptable," says the letter to congressional leaders first reported by Reuters, warning a strike could halt passenger railroad Amtrak and commuter rail services that "would disrupt up to 7 million travelers a day."

Biden's Presidential Emergency Board in August released the framework for the tentative deal forged in September between major railroads and a dozen unions representing 115,000 workers. Those carriers include Union Pacific (NYSE:UNP), Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRKa) Inc's BNSF, CSX (NASDAQ:CSX), Norfolk Southern (NYSE:NSC) and Kansas City Southern (NYSE:KSU).

Unions and railroads have until Dec. 9 to resolve differences. If they do not, workers could strike or railroads could lock out employees - unless Congress intervenes. But railroads would halt hazardous materials shipments at least four days ahead of a strike deadline.

Biden asks Congress to avert rail strike, warning of dire economic impact
 

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Comments (8)
Clay Douglass
Clay Douglass Nov 28, 2022 10:05PM ET
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Biden is a lying bum.
john Hahne
john Hahne Nov 28, 2022 9:57PM ET
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Too little too late. Biden and his Administration should have been on top of this months ago. Biden is either lazy or too stupid to know that he is a failure.
James Long
FauxNews Nov 28, 2022 9:57PM ET
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Although you may not agree with him, Biden has implemented a ton of his agenda.
Stefan Kunco
Stefan Kunco Nov 28, 2022 9:57PM ET
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James Long Liquidating the economy and feeding their sponsors. His campaign cost $500,000,000. And he has a short time to return it.
Dan Bohling
Dan Bohling Nov 28, 2022 9:57PM ET
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Thought Biden took a victory lap 2 months ago proclaiming that he resolved the issue… guess that was more theatrics over real results
Teena Marie
Teena Marie Nov 28, 2022 8:23PM ET
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Any policy, past and present and regardless of the source, is best examined if there is long term benefit or a detriment implemented for the purpose of short term gain and specious rhetoric. There are also critical turning points when policymakers have to focus and put aside bipartisan politics. This is one of those moments. Right now, at this moment in the here and now, it is absolutely imperative to avert a shut down of railroad transports.
Roger Miller
Roger Miller Nov 28, 2022 7:10PM ET
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Unions are motivated by the high inflation Biden and the Dems have helped create, and also have been empowered by their policies and rhetoric. End result will be more inflation, effecting the poor and middle class the most.
Alex Malmstrom
Alex Malmstrom Nov 28, 2022 7:08PM ET
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Too bad he chose to bail out college dropouts and pick up their tab in hopes of attracting new voters lol!
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Nov 28, 2022 7:08PM ET
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Too bad why?
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Nov 28, 2022 6:56PM ET
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This must be resolved. Pay the workers more ffs, how hard is it.
Dave Jones
Dave Jones Nov 28, 2022 6:32PM ET
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Hee hee hee let's go brandon gonna soil your nick ers.
Jim Divers
Jim Divers Nov 28, 2022 5:05PM ET
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Biden didnt want to anger this group before elections. Now he will ask congress to step in.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Nov 28, 2022 5:05PM ET
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He's asking Congress to approve the agreement the unions have accepted. They won't be angered, dummy.
rob finch
rob finch Nov 28, 2022 5:05PM ET
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the union accepted it. the union membership did not. it was voted down by the people.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Nov 28, 2022 5:05PM ET
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rob finch 8 of 12 memberships approved.
 
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