But an amendment to ensure paid sick leave for railroad workers failed to pass the US Senate’s 60-vote threshold.
The United States Senate passed a bill forcing railroad unions to accept an agreement that would raise wages to avoid a nationwide strike that is expected to have a severe economic impact.
The bill passed on Thursday by a vote of 80 to 15, and it is now going to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature. Rail workers are expected to start striking on December 9 if no deal is reached.
The deal builds on an earlier tentative agreement signed in September with the help of the Biden administration that includes higher pay but no paid sick leave.
Just before the vote, the Senate rejected a separate amendment that would have given railroad workers seven days of paid sick leave a year, a key requirement.
With a vote of 52 to 43, the amendment received majority support, with six Republican lawmakers joining the Democrats to vote yes. But that number falls short of the 60 votes needed to pass a lawsuit during Thursday’s proceedings.
Pro-labor groups have criticized the Congressional intervention as an attack on workers’ collective bargaining power and made concessions to railroad companies that have refused to budge on the sick leave issue.
The administration has defended the move by pointing to the cost a rail strike would have on the economy at period of high inflation. A strike could disrupt the US supply chain and affect 30% of the country’s shipments by weight. In a speech on Thursday, Biden warned this could lead to 750,000 job losses and a recession.
Some unions have approval of the proposed agreementwhich the Biden administration helped broker and hailed as a “big win” in September.
“I negotiated a contract that no one else could negotiate,” Biden said at Thursday’s press conference. Press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron. “What was negotiated was a lot better than anything they’ve ever had.”
The deal offers rail workers a 24% pay raise and a $5,000 bonus over five years and comes at a time when railroad companies have cut more than 30% of their workforces over the past six years. . During the same period, railroad companies engaged in stock buybacks and saw their profits increase.
All 12 unions participating in the negotiations need to approve the contract to avoid a strike. The majority have done so, but members of the nation’s largest rail union cite problems with unmet quality of life, including demanding schedules, among reasons. their to refuse it.
This is my message to Republican Senators who claim to be in favor of the working class: shut up or shut up. pic.twitter.com/LadouLTLg9
– Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) December 1, 2022
Congress could resolve disputes between railroads and unions as part of its power to regulate commerce. Some lawmakers, such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, pushed for the inclusion of paid sick leave into law on Thursday.
“If you’re a working-class advocate, how would you vote against the proposal to provide paid sick leave to workers who don’t currently have it?” Sanders said in an interview pushing for an amendment to the sick leave regime was denied earlier this week.