Senate Joins House in Voting to Impose Railroad Contract

Legislation prohibiting shutdown goes to Biden for his signature
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 1, 2022 3:59 PM CST
Senate Joins House in Voting to Impose Railroad Contract
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi updates reporters Thursday on legislation to block a railroad shutdown.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The Senate moved quickly Thursday to avert a rail strike that the Biden administration and business leaders warned would have devastating consequences for the nation's economy. The Senate passed a bill to bind rail companies and workers to a proposed settlement that was reached between the rail companies and union leaders in September. That settlement had been rejected by some of the 12 unions involved, creating the possibility of a strike beginning Dec. 9. The Senate vote was 80-15, the AP reports. Passage came one day after the House voted to impose the agreement. The measure now goes to President Biden for his signature.

"I'm very glad that the two sides got together to avoid a shutdown, which would have been devastating for the American people, to the American economy, and so many workers across the country," Democratic Senate Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had emphasized to Democratic senators that rail companies would begin shutting down operations well before a potential strike would begin. The administration wanted the bill on Biden's desk by the weekend. Shortly before Thursday's votes, Biden—who had urged Congress to intervene—defended the contract that four of the unions had rejected, noting the wage increases it contains.

"I negotiated a contract no one else could negotiate," Biden said at a news briefing with French President Emmanuel Macron. "What was negotiated was so much better than anything they ever had." Critics say the contract that did not receive backing from enough union members lacked sufficient levels of paid leave for rail workers. Biden said he wants paid leave for everybody so that it wouldn't have to be negotiated in employment contracts, but Republican lawmakers have blocked measures to mandate time off work for medical and family reasons. The president said that Congress should impose the contract to avoid a strike that he said could cause 750,000 job losses and a recession.

(Read more railroad stories.)

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