Rail unions decry, businesses praise Biden’s call for Congress to block strike

Date:


New York
CNN affairs

President Joe Biden attended unusual position Tuesday that he was praised by business interests and attacked by his normal allies in the labor movement after he called on Congress to take immediate action to stop a strike by more than 100,000 unionists at the country’s freight railways set to end before the end of scheduled for next week.

The move was a serious setback for unions, who say they needed the right to strike to get railway management to negotiate their big demand to give workers sick days not included in current contracts. They say the railroads, many of which posted record profits last year, are even stronger earnings this year and can afford to meet union demands.

Biden said he was sympathetic to the union’s demand, but said a railroad strike would cause too much economic damage and should be avoided.

“I share the concern of employees about the inability to take time off to recover from illness or care for a sick family memberr,he said in his statement. “No one should have to choose between their job and their health – or the health of their children.”

He said the tentative deals rejected by rank-and-file members of the unions were good deals for workers, even despite those concerns. They include 24% wage increases over the four-year life of the deals, the largest wage increases the unions have won in more than 50 years. Biden pointed out that the union leadership had agreed to the tentative deals in September when they were being negotiated and called them good deals for the rank and file.

But membership in four of the unions rejected the preliminary deals. The other eight unions are willing to honor their pickets and also go on strike without a deal or Congressional action, and Biden’s expressed sympathy for demands over sick leave did not satisfy some union leaders on Tuesday.

“It’s not enough to ‘share workers’ concerns’,” said a statement from the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, which represents approximately 23,000 rail maintenance workers, making it the third-largest rail union. “A call for Congress to act immediately to pass legislation enacting preliminary agreements excluding paid sick leave ignores the concerns of railroad workers.”

Other union officials were also critical of Biden’s move to impose the unpopular contracts. When asked by CNN if he felt Biden had failed unions and their members, Michael Baldwin, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, replied, “Yes, to an extent.”

“We are trying to tackle the problem of absenteeism here. It’s very important,” Baldwin told CNN on Tuesday. “This action prevents us from reaching the end of our process, takes away the strength and ability we have to force negotiations or force the railroads to … do the right thing.”

Baldwin said the unions don’t want to go on strike, but the only way to win deals at the negotiating table is with the support of rank and file members.

He said that if there is a strike, it will be the fault of the railway management, not the unions.

“The railroads have an opportunity to solve this problem. If they came to the table and did that, we could move forward without Congressional action,” he said.

He said this is a problem that railway unions have been trying to tackle for decades, but that it has received more attention from members in recent times.

“This became a glaring problem during the pandemic when we had members forced by their employers, the railways, to stay home and quarantine without pay,” he said. “But really it comes down to simple things like the flu for a day or two, or a sick child, and the ability to take a day or two paid.”

As labor leaders attacked Biden, business groups praised his call to action from Congress, saying a strike would deal a serious blow to the economy by bringing 30% of the country’s freight movements to a halt.

A strike, scheduled for December 9, would snarl still-struggling supply chains and cause shortages and a spike in the prices of gasoline, food, cars and other goods, dealing a blow to the economy that many fear is already imminent. hit a recession. A week-long strike could cost the economy $1 billion, according to an estimate by Anderson Economic Group. The White House estimated that as many as 765,000 workers could be temporarily out of work within two weeks if railroad workers went on strike.

More than 400 business groups had joined on Monday to plead with Congressional leaders for swift action on Monday. Several reiterated those concerns Tuesday at a news conference hosted by the Association of American Railroads, the industry’s trade group. They all praised Biden’s move and called it appropriate.

“The only thing standing in the way of making sure the U.S. economy doesn’t take a big hit is the U.S. Congress,” said Mike Sommers, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, an oil industry lobby group that relies on the United States. track. shipments, which has clashed with Biden over the course of the past year over high gasoline prices.

Biden and Democrats were unwilling to block a strike in September as negotiations approached an earlier strike deadline. As another strike deadline approached, they felt there was no choice but to act.

Biden’s Monday night statement suggested the railroad strategy had worked.

“During the ratification votes, the Ministers of Labour, Agriculture and Transport have been in regular contact with union leaders and management. They believe there is no way to resolve the dispute at the negotiating table and have recommended that we take action with Congress,” he said.

“As a proud pro-labor president, I am reluctant to override the ratification processes and the positions of those who voted against the agreement,” he said. “But in this case — where the economic impact of a shutdown would hurt millions of other working people and families — I believe Congress should use its powers to pass this deal.”

The fact that Congress will decide to impose the rejected preliminary deals could be viewed as a limited victory for the unions: Congress could instead have voted to impose contracts that were worse off for the workers than the contracts that their members rejected.

Republicans in Congress who had introduced legislation to keep workers in work before a strike deadline in September wanted to impose a contract that would have been worse for union members, one based on recommendations from a panel convened this summer to try to a deal acceptable to both parties. The unions could have negotiated improvements to that proposal at the negotiating table in September.

The unions, meanwhile, are calling on Congress to include sick days in any contract imposed on the unions. They say this will be better for both employees and railway customers who have regularly complained about poor service that even the railways admit is inadequate.

“Passing legislation to pass provisional agreements excluding paid sick leave for railway employees will not solve the problems with railway services,” the BMWED statement said. “On the contrary, it will exacerbate supply chain problems and further sicken, enrage and disenfranchise railway workers as they continue to bear the burden of railway mismanagement.”

But Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the only legislation that could get through a narrowly divided Congress in time to stave off a strike is legislation that mirrors the rejected preliminary agreements.

“Some in Congress want to change the deal to improve it for labor or for management,” Biden’s statement said. “No matter how well-intentioned, any change brings delays and a grueling closure. The agreement has been entered into by both parties in good faith.”

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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