US rail unions decry Biden’s proposal to impose settlement through Congress | US unions

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Railroad workers have expressed dismay at Joe Biden’s proposed solution to a looming strike that threatens to derail the US economy, which they say contradicts his image as the most pro-union president in generations.

As a December 9 deadline approaches for the long-running labor dispute between the U.S.’s largest railroad companies and their unions, Biden has called on Congress to step in and block a strike that some estimate could cost the U.S. economy about $2 billion a day. can cost.

The impending strike comes as the US grapples with a cost-of-living crisis driven by a 40-year high inflation, and Biden has said a strike for railroad workers could “devastate our economy.” On Wednesday, Congress is expected to pass legislation that will enforce a settlement.

But union leaders are unhappy that Biden’s solution appears to be to impose a settlement reached in September that has already been rejected by many for failing to address members’ concerns about pay, sick days, staff shortages and time off.

“Joe Biden blew it,” said Hugh Sawyer, treasurer of Railroad Workers United, a group representing workers from various railroad unions and carriers. “He had a chance to prove his labor-friendly heritage to millions of workers simply by asking Congress to pass legislation to end the threat of a national strike on terms more favorable to the workers. Unfortunately, he couldn’t bring himself to plead for a handful of sick days. The Democrats and Republicans are both pawns of big business and corporations.”

Matt Parker, locomotive engineer and chairman of the Nevada State Legislative Board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said: “The overly simplistic approach the government has taken to this whole issue shows how out of touch they are with the plight of railway workers.”

Railroad workers have been threatened with industrial action over their lack of paid sick leave and the railroad companies’ disciplinary attendance systems punishing them for taking unpaid time off, an issue that workers say has contributed to a work-life imbalance at work.

Four of the 12 railway unions representing a majority of railway workers have rejected a preliminary new union agreement that does not allay their concerns. If one of the 12 unions goes on strike, each union has agreed to respect the picket line.

Under the Railway Labor Act, workers’ right to strike legally is limited in transport services. The last railroad strike in the US took place in 1992 for two days before Congress intervened.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said Congress would pass legislation on Wednesday to stop a nationwide strike that would uphold the original union agreement brokered by the Biden administration in September to prevent industrial action ahead of the midterm elections .

She said the deal is “not all I’d like to see, I’d like to see paid sick leave – any [leading democratic] country in the world has it. I don’t like going against a union’s ability to strike, but if we weigh up the interests, we should avoid a strike.”

Parker expressed his displeasure and disappointment with pressure from the Biden administration to impose a preliminary deal that most railroad workers voted against, and warned that the consequences of doing so without addressing quality of life would likely be will lead to higher turnover in a workforce that has already done so. has experienced a sharp fall in employment in recent years.

As railroad companies have enacted budget cuts and more grueling scheduling systems, they have also reported record profits and paid out $196 billion in share buybacks and dividends to shareholders since 2010.

BNSF and Union Pacific, the two largest railroad companies in North America, both reported record profits in 2021. BNSF is owned by billionaire investor Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate.

Senator Bernie Sanders fell out with Buffett last week. “Warren Buffett, the owner of BNSF Railway’s parent company, became $1.38 billion richer yesterday,” Sanders said. tweetedreferring to an increase in Buffett’s net worth due to an increase in Berkshire Hathaway’s share price.

“In one day, Mr. Buffett made twice as much money as it would cost to guarantee 15 paid sick days a year to every railroad worker in America,” Sanders said. “The greed of the rail industry must stop.”

Parker claimed that this move to call for a rejected contract to be imposed undermines Biden’s relationship with labor, as he has repeatedly and proudly proclaimed the most pro-union president ever.

“What railroad workers are standing up for is a better quality of life, the respect they deserve and the benefits they deserve and have earned. Sick leave, reasonable time off to rest when the majority of railroad employees are on call 24/7 365 days a year,” Parker said.

“With the increased demands of the railways with their staff cuts and with this draconian attendance policy, railway employees are not given enough time off to rest, recuperate, recover from illness or spend time with their families,” he added please. . ‘That’s what they’re looking for. If left unaddressed, this could have a profound effect on railways’ ability to hire and retain employees in the future.”

Jeff Kurtz, an Iowa locomotive engineer for more than 40 years, strongly criticized the Biden administration’s preliminary agreement. “It’s not just about paid time off, it’s about time off,” says Kurtz, who is now retired. “Basically what the carriers, and now it looks like what Congress is going to say as well, is you’re pretty much tied to your job for the rest of your life.”

In the railroad deal, workers were given one paid day off and the ability to schedule three doctor’s appointments annually without being penalized, but Kurtz noted that the parameters and restrictions make it nearly impossible to use the time off and employers even more interference and control. about the health care of their employees. Employees had requested 15 paid days off in the contract.

“The presidential emergency council just didn’t provide any assistance,” Kurtz added. “I thought it would be a bit more labor friendly than it was, but as far as I’m concerned it could have been written by the carriers.”


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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