Joe Biden signs law to block rail strike

by David Shepardson and Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON, Dec 2 (Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Friday signed into law legislation aimed at preventing a railroad strike he says could be catastrophic for the U.S. economy.

The Senate adopted Thursday by a large majority, by 80 votes against 15, this text imposing on railway workers a branch agreement concluded in September between the railway companies and twelve unions representing 115,000 employees, who threatened to go on strike on December 9.

The upper house of Congress, on the other hand, did not approve a measure consisting in remunerating several days of sick leave per year, which the four unions out of 12 who refused to ratify the branch agreement are demanding.

“It was tough for me but it was the right thing to do at this time – saving jobs, protecting millions of working families from disruption and keeping supply chains going through the holiday season,” the official said. head of the White House, who works to maintain good relations with the unions.

A strike by rail workers would have been “an economic disaster”, he added to justify his decision. The walkout would have frozen nearly 30% of freight transport in the United States and cost the American economy nearly $2 billion a day, according to companies in the sector.

The American Congress intervened in this industrial dispute because it has the power to block a strike when it concerns the transport sector.

American railway companies – Union Pacific, BNSF (Berkshire Hathaway Inc), CSX or Norfolk Southern Corp among others – have sharply reduced the cost of labor in recent years in order to improve their profits and oppose the payment of work stoppages for health reasons which would oblige them to recruit more employees.

“Railroad companies are making record profits. Employees have no paid sick leave. Is that OK? Paying sick leave is a basic human right,” said Sean O’Brien, president of the Teamsters union. , on Twitter after the Senate vote.

The branch agreement that is binding on railway workers provides for a 24% salary increase over five years and five exceptional bonuses of $1,000 per year. (French version Jean-Stéphane Brosse)

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