Biden administration braces for potential rail workers strike

Biden Administration Prepares for Railroad Workers Strike

The White House has been preparing contingency plans to keep key transportation lines open and moving goods if union rail workers go on strike later this week, White House press secretary Karine said Tuesday. Jean Pierre.

“We are working with other modes of transportation, including carriers, truckers and air freight to see how they can step in and keep goods moving in the event of this rail closure,” Jean-Pierre told a news conference. “The administration has also been working with relevant agencies to assess which supply chains and commodities are most likely to face serious disruptions.”

President Joe Biden and several of the cabinet secretaries, including representatives of the Labor, Agriculture and Transportation departments, have been in talks for months with unions and companies to try to prevent a strike, Jean-Pierre said. The administration, he added, has had hundreds of calls and meetings on the issue since early spring.

Shipping containers sit at the BNSF Railway intermodal facility on July 28, 2021 in Cicero, Illinois.

Scott Olsen | fake images

“We have made it abundantly clear to stakeholders the harm American families, businesses, farmers and communities would suffer if they did not come to a resolution,” Jean-Pierre said.

Union rail workers have threatened to go on strike if their demands on wages and working conditions are not met. Negotiations are hanging on the issue of unpaid sick timeincluding the ability to take time off work for routine medical appointments.

More than 700 unionized workers resigned after BNSF Railway, a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, instituted a points-based attendance system in February. Rail companies say workers already have generous furlough policies, but union leaders argue workers have trouble taking days off because they don’t have set hours.

Eight of the 12 unions reached tentative agreements with rail carriers as of Tuesday morning, according to the National Conference of Carriers Committee, up from five a week ago.

But two of the largest unions, the Brotherhood of Locomotive and Railroad Engineers and the SMART Transportation Division, which together make up half of the rail union’s workers, are still negotiating. That leaves some 60,000 workers ready to strike if a deal isn’t reached by Friday.

“We encourage people to stay at the negotiating table to come to a resolution. This is important because of what it could mean for the American people, what it could mean for American families,” Jean-Pierre said.

About 40% of the country’s long-distance trade is carried by rail. If the unions go on strike, more than 7,000 trains would be stopped, which would cost up to an estimated $2 billion per day.

Americans have already begun to feel the effects of a potential strike. Amtrak canceled some of its long-distance rail service beginning Tuesday, including routes between Chicago and the West Coast along Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, California Zephyr and Empire Builder lines, and portions of Amtrak’s Texas Eagle route. between Los Angeles and San Antonio.

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